Friday, April 16, 2010

Review: Vintage Veronica by Erica S. Perl

Found via: Publisher's Weekly 3/1

I loooooooooove me some thrift stores. My mom knew she was raising me well when in 8th grade I went into some store at the mall (I think it was Express) and saw a pair of cut off shorts that were selling for some ridiculous price, and I asked why anyone would spend that sort of money when they could buy a pair of jeans for $3 at Goodwill and do it themselves? Almost all of my clothes shopping in high school was done at thrift stores; from my parents' house you can drive in a couple mile long loop and hit about 5 thrift stores without ever having to back track.

So when I ran across Vintage Veronica, which is set in a thrift store, I knew I had to read it. HAD TO.

Veronica picks up a summer job working at the local thrift store/consignment shop. On the first floor is Dollar-a-pound, where shoppers fill bags with clothes from a giant pile, paying a dollar for every pound of goodies they buy. The second level is home to the consignment shop, staffed by the Florons, aka Zoe and Ginger. Veronica works in the part of the store cordoned off and labeled Employees Only! Originally only an assistant, after her flaky boss takes off without warning it's now Veronica's job to decide what goes into the Dollar-a-Pound pile and what gets sent to consignment. Veronica's been cultivating her own unique fashion sense and an eye for bargains since she was a little girl, accompanying her father to flea markets, so this is essentially the perfect job for her. Fun clothes, and no annoying people to bother her.

Until Zoe and Ginger decide they want to be buddies with Veronica. She's hesitant at first - not only are Zoe and Ginger quintessential Mean Girls (they are constantly harassing the staff at Veronica's favorite donut shop next to the store), but Veronica is overweight and is suspicious that anyone would really like her. But Zoe and Ginger seem sincere, and convince Veronica to help them bust the mysterious of the enigmatic Lenny, the stock boy they are convinced is actually the head of some sort of vintage clothing crime ring.

But Veronica isn't cut out to be a super spy. As she's supposed to be spying on Lenny and reporting back to Zoe and Ginger, she quickly finds herself liking Lenny, first as a friend, and then potentially as more. And Lenny seems to like her, too, leaving Veronica to wonder who her true friends really are - the giggly girls who are out to get Lenny, or the shy, quiet boy who cares for sickly lizards and doesn't seem to notice that Veronica is fat.

This book is the definition of a cast of colorful characters. Aside from Veronica, Zoe, Ginger, and Lenny, there's also Bill, the stoner clerk in Dollar-a-Pound who had a thing for Veronica (and maybe still does), and the hoard that lines up in front of the store in order to ambush the pile. The store is also full of cats, which also made me incredibly happy, because I <3 my kitties.

Less colorful was Veronica's mom, who is a totally two-dimensional character. She's super health conscious, teaches yoga, and wears nothing but leotards and other workout gear, a stark contrast to Veronica, she of the reclaimed prom dresses, stubby pigtails, and lemon logs & mocha smoothies. She's so distant she has no idea where her daughter is working during the summer, and we only see her in brief glimpses at the end of the day, usually when Veronica is nuking a Lean Cuisine dinner.

While Veronica is snarky and sassy, she does fall into cliche territory as well sometimes. She's the fat girl that just doesn't have the self-control to stay away from the donut shop. She wears outlandish clothes that aren't all that flattering (though they are eye catching - taffeta dresses in a rainbow of colors worn with bowling shoes, for example). I wish a little more nuance had gone into developing her character.
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