Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Released: March 14th 2004
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Mara Valentine is in control. She's a straight-A senior, a vegan, and her parents' pride and joy. She's neck-and-neck with her womanizing ex-boyfriend for number-one class ranking and plans to kick his salutatorian butt on her way out the door to Yale. Mara has her remaining months in Brockport all planned out, but the plan does not include having V, her slutty, pot-smoking, sixteen-year-old niece — yes, niece — come to live with her family. Nor does it involve lusting after her boss or dreaming about grilled cheese sandwiches every night. What does a control freak like Mara do when things start spinning wildly out of control? With insight, authenticity, and a healthy dose of humor, Carolyn Mackler creates an evolving Type A heroine that every reader will recognize — and root for. (from Goodreads)
Mara is a strict vegan. She's taking college classes, she has early acceptance to Yale and she's a virgin. Mara thinks her life is going just fine, until her niece V, who is only a year younger than her, moves in and everything changes. V is Mara's total opposite. She's loud, she's rude and having a good time is number one on her priority list. Mara doesn't know how to handle her, and lately she's having trouble concentrating on anything at all. She keeps dreaming about grilled cheese sandwiches, and other things that are off limits. But with the fight to become Valedictorian and to achieve the highest GPA in the school, Mara doesn't have time to sort out her problems. What's a girl to do?
I started reading Vegan Virgin Valentine knowing nothing about it at all. I didn't read any reviews for it, so I had no idea what to expect. I ended up liking it quite a lot. Mara was a character I could relate to; it was easy to understand why she was so stressed out, and I could see that she was struggling to juggle all her classes and extra-curricular activities, as well as the difficulties she was experiencing to stay vegan. I liked how Mara wasn't perfect; she broke out in spots occassionally and said stupid things sometimes, just like other teenagers, and all of this made it feel more realistic and believeable to me. I liked the way she was so determined, and how this was both one of her strengths and weaknesses - her determination meant that she felt she always needed to be in control, something that she found progressively harder with each day.
I liked the way V and Mara's friendship developed; they started off as almost-enemies and ended up actually caring about each other. I thought V balanced Mara out a bit, and they were both quite funny characters with their own quirks and flaws. V seemed quite tough on the outside, but was really actually quite understanding underneath.
Though I liked James' character, I wanted to know more about him. He was very sweet and charming, but I felt like I didn't know much about his character except he was twenty-two and owned a coffee shop. I also felt the same way with his relationship with Mara; I wanted to know why they both liked each other and what made them want to be together. I also thought that Claudia's character could have been explored a little more, though I did like her and thought she was pretty fun.
Another thing I enjoyed was the relationship between Mara and her parents, and how Mara started off not minding all the phone calls and check-ups and ended up bursting out a bunch of secrets she'd been keeping. Mara felt like her parents only had her to make up for her older sister's failures, so I thought it was funny when Mara's mother had a chat with her about this, because it was something Mara really didn't expect. I thought that perhaps her parents would have been a little more shocked by her outburst, but I'm glad that everything worked out in the end. As for Aimee, V's mother and Mara's sister, I definitely understood why V sometimes resented her, and I was pleased that V got to do something she enjoyed for a change.
In conclusion, Vegan Virgin Valentine was a quick (could've been longer in my opinion - I wanted to know more!) and entertaining read and I'm very happy I read it. Recommended.