Book Review: ‘Going Vintage’ by Lindsey Leavitt

In a given day, I use a computer, the internet, a smart phone, a Nook, and an iPod. All of those things. Every day. And I know I’m not the only one. Usually these things make life more convenient; give us an opportunity to stay connected to our friends and family. But for a teenager who just discovered her boyfriend has been cheating on her with an online stranger named BubbleYum, technology suddenly seems much more sinister.

Such is the case for Going Vintage’s leading lady, Mallory. At the beginning of the book she has the misfortune of discovering that her longtime boyfriend Jeremy is exchanging lovey-dovey emails with a girl he met on Friendspace and, to her credit, dumps him immediately. She then discovers a list her grandmother wrote when she was a teenager, containing all her goals for her junior year of high school. Mallory starts thinking that maybe her life would be better if she gave up technology and started living with the priorities of a 1960s teen. She challenges herself to live an authentic (or as authentic as possible) 1960s existence until she manages to check off all the items on her grandmother’s old list of goals.

As you can imagine, it’s not easy for a teenager to go without modern technology, but Mallory is committed. And while focusing on her new to-do list, she opens herself up to new experiences that help her get a better understanding of who she is and what she’s good at, something she was never able to do when she spent 24/7 with Jeremy.  Sure, some of Mallory’s ideas about the 60s are idealized and misguided, but for the first time in her life she is following through on a plan, and it gives her new confidence.

One of the fantastic things about this book is the subtle, gradual evolution of Mallory. You don’t get beat over the head with a message, but you do get the point, and it’s a good one: figure out who you are, on your own, and be content with that. Prior to her list project, Mallory never really had a best friend. She knew lots of people casually, but spent so much time with Jeremy that she didn’t get close to anyone else. She starts to realize how easy it can be to get to know someone if you take the time, and identifies new friends who appreciate her good qualities. She also gets to know a swoony boy, of course, but get this – even with the swoony boy in the periphery; this book is not about the girl getting the guy. So many young adult books that attempt to send a positive message to teenage girls still end up being all about the happy ending with the new and improved guy – but that’s not the case here, and it was refreshing.

I really enjoyed Mallory’s sense of humor, which was sometimes dry and sarcastic; sometimes perfectly silly and teenager-y.  She’d get pretty feisty when talking about BubbleYum or her mom’s secretive internet project, but then she’d say something like, “I am a thingless chunk of tofu” and it would all even out. I also appreciated the realistic portrayal of Mallory’s close relationship with her younger sister, Ginnie. Though she didn’t have a best friend at school, Ginnie essentially filled that void. Throughout the book the sisters had their ups and downs, but they were quick to forgive and always looking out for each other.

For me, Going Vintage hit this perfect balance of being fun and entertaining, but also feeling realistic and satisfying with its overall story and message. It was a page-turner for me as well, and once I got to the middle I ended up reading the rest all in one sitting. There were so many likable characters and relatable situations, and it seemed true to the roller coaster of emotions many teens go through. Above all else, though, I loved this book because Mallory was such a fantastic character and a great role model to younger readers. For the first time in her life she took initiative, became independent, and gained the confidence to realize her own worth. She did our name proud! I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys contemporary YA.

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