When Cornflower initially discovered Sab H.’s YA Historical Fiction reading challenge I immediately began searching LibraryThing, Amazon and Goodreads for interesting YA historical fiction books. During my search I came across two different books (both of which began a series) set in the 1920s. After much debate I decided to go with Anna Godbersen’s series, Bright Young Things, mostly because I read her Luxe series and enjoyed them, and because I liked the cover better. Yeah, yeah, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but too bad, we all do anyway. In the end, I think my instincts were right.
Over the past few weeks, I read the second book in The Bright Young Things series, Beautiful Days, and read Vixen and Ingenue, of Jillian Larkin’s The Flapper series. Mind you, neither series is great literature, but they are both enjoyable and provide escape from your day-to-day life. While I enjoyed Godbersen’s a bit more (3.5 stars in my LibraryThing library versus 3 stars), they are remarkably similar.
Both series contain:
- male love interests with ridiculous nicknames–Thom (Thomas) and Bastian (Sebastian). Seriously, take out the “h.” It’s pronounced Tom anyway, as for Bastian, well it’s a silly name all around and makes me think of walls and singing crabs, simultaneously.
- Protagonists who are excellent singers and who eventually sing in an illegal speakeasy.
- Scandalous and ahead-of-the-times interracial relationships.
I have yet to decide if I’ll continue reading Jillian Larkin’s books, since I don’t care about any of the characters, but I also want to know what happens! If you’re looking for a tale of intrigue, alcohol, gangsters and flappers, check out either series. They’re practically the same thing, but if you can, go for Godbersen’s. I think she does a better job painting a realistic picture of 1920s New York City, whereas Larkin has modern characters with modern sensibilities dropped into the 1920s Chicago/New York setting.
However, if you want to read a real book about adolescence in the 1920s, check out Through No Fault of My Own: A Girl’s Diary of Life on Summit Avenue in the Jazz Age by Coco Irvine. Peg Meier found Coco’s diary in the Minnesota Historical Society and did some research on the family to write the forward and epilogue, and then published the diary. It’s a quick read, and Coco is hilarious–all the scrapes and hijinks that she gets into, through no fault of her own, of course.
It was also interesting to read the perspective of a real teenager in the 20s as opposed to our assumptions of teenagers in the area. It was actually quite different from what I expected, and without references to certain music and movie stars, wouldn’t have thought it a relic of the 20s. Perhaps it’s because Minnesota is always a bit behind the times (very few trend setters here) or maybe it’s because Coco came from a very wealthy family which held onto
their old habits and traditions. For me, the most exciting part of Coco’s book, is that I live three blocks off Summit and therefore knew exactly what she was talking about, in terms of locations. I love reading books that take place near me. It makes it so much easier to get into the head’s of the characters.
No matter which book or series you choose, I recommend you mix yourself a gin drink to enjoy while reading. Preferably served in a teacup. It is prohibition after all…