Review: Diva by Jillian Larkin

Diva (Flappers #3)
Jillian Larkin

Delacorte Books for Young Readers (2012)
320 pages
YA / Historical

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Parties, bad boys, speakeasies—life in Manhattan has become a woozy blur for Clara Knowles. If Marcus Eastman truly loved her, how could he have fallen for another girl so quickly? Their romance mustn't have been as magical as Clara thought. And if she has to be unhappy, she's going to drag everyone else down to the depths of despair right along with her.

Being a Barnard girl is the stuff of Lorraine Dyer's dreams. Finding out that Marcus is marrying a gold digger who may or may not be named Anastasia? A nightmare. The old Lorraine would have sat by and let the chips fall where they may, but she's grown up a lot these past few months. She can't bear to see Marcus lose a chance for true love. But will anyone listen to her?

Now that the charges against her have been dropped, Gloria Carmody is spending the last dizzying days of summer on Long Island, yachting on the sound and palling around with socialites at Forrest Hamilton's swanky villa. Beneath her smile, though, Gloria's keeping a secret. One that could have deadly consequences . . .

 

I have no idea what it is about Jillian Larkin’s Flapper series that makes me love it so much. I’m normally not into books that lack some sort of science fiction or fantasy element or at least a compelling mystery, but apparently the hijinks of these upper-class flappers in 1920s New York is enough to sway me from my usual stories. There’s a vivaciousness to Larkin’s writing and especially her characters that lifts what might other be just another teen soap opera to a level that is extremely entertaining without the petty annoyances common, I find, in other books focusing on the daily pursuits of teenagers.

Spoilers for Vixen and Ingénue ahead

Diva is quite possibly the perfect conclusion to a series that involved gangsters, speakeasies, illegal consumption of copious amounts of alcohol, dancing and a heavy dose of racism. The story is still told from the three separate points of view. Gloria has found herself in prison for shooting a gangster who attempted to kill her fiancé at the end of Ingénue while her cousin Clara starts finding her life of high society parties and all night drinking lacking after Marcus left her for lying about her gossip column career. Then there’s Lorraine, who is the most oblivious character in any recent books I’ve read. She’s found herself in one disaster after another, all the while thinking she’s simply misunderstood and everyone else is the problem. Now in college, these things haven’t changed and she still doesn’t understand why everyone seems to hate her.

Despite the same thing happening in Ingénue I was incredibly surprised at how long the three characters were kept apart. It’s not until the very end set piece when the three finally meet again, and the crazy shenanigans that happen immediately after their reunion left me unable to put the book down. I love Larkin’s use of humor in awkward situations that lighten what could otherwise be heavier moments. Of course with teenage characters, there are a lot of emotions in this book flying around and the moments of laugh out loud humor make the heavier issues of racism and lost love easier to digest.

Speaking of racism, I had a few issues with the treatment of Jerome, Gloria’s African American fiancé. Diva opens with a tragic incident where his well-being is left uncertain and that uncertainty remains for dozens of chapters until he conveniently just reappears. He then only remains useful for another few chapters before he disappears again for most of the book, only to be a bit of a footnote at the end about his condition. It felt as though the original opening incident was a way to get him out of the picture, so that Gloria could flounce around with another rich man and his crew of drunken admirers. His second appearance is just a plot device to uncover a piece of information important in its mystery to Gloria and, once his job is done, he’s pushed off screen to prevent him from becoming inconvenient.

In the end, just about everyone gets a happy ending with an emphasis on “just about everyone”. Like the previous books in the series, the climax of the story involves a misbegotten fight with a gun that goes off in the middle of a large crowd. The ensuing tragedy is waved off a bit as though Larkin was getting a little too close to her final page count and needed to wrap everything up.

Clara and Lorraine meet up and, despite hating each other, they join forces for a lot of humorous shenanigans in an attempt to derail Marcus’ wedding to some French socialite. It’s a bit like a comedy of errors where you just can’t turn away despite knowing exactly how wrong everything is going to go. I think these two girls could make a great period sitcom, if such a thing every existed.

Overall Diva was a fitting conclusion to the Flappers series, maintaining the action-packed adventures of this trio of socialites who like to put themselves in questionable positions for the sake of fun while embedding a lot of heart and humor into what could have quickly become an unbelievable farce. Larkin occasionally goes a little heavy on the details of the clothing, but with a period piece like this, all the details create a vivid environment to fill with her crazy cast of characters. I’m glad I took a chance on this series because it’s a lot of fun for those who like contemporary YA or just likes a good entertaining romp in the roaring 20s.

 

I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. The link to purchase the book is part of the Amazon Associate program, so if you buy something, I'll get a tiny piece to put towards contests.