Stephen Spear is everyone’s golden boy (including his own). Blond, blue-eyed, blessed with every talent and advantage, he has the world falling at his feet. And he’s ready to trample all over it. When Stephen falls for Ant, the only gay man he knows who still has chest hair, he is astounded to find his desire unrequited. Or is it? Ant is so inscrutable, it’s impossible to be entirely sure. But Stephen is determined to get his man. And if the wiggle of his cute butt isn’t enough, then scheming, lying and manipulating is second nature to him. He’s too young to realise that love can be tricky enough without adding any extra complications. Vanity Fierce is a love story that’s big on outrageous schemes, dark secrets and firm muscles.
This was a nice break away from my typical reads, and it was great to see Sydney shine through the text. Getting a glimpse into a life far different from my own, shedding a humorous eye over the darker side of the Kings Cross and Darlinghurst gay scene in the nineties… a truly surprising novel. There were times when it started to drag – especially in excerpts from the novel featured within the story, but on the whole, thoroughly entertaining. I applaud the usage of the inserted manuscript to take a peek into a different view of events (even though both points of view could be considered unreliable) but felt if small chunks were highlighted rather than entire chapters the pacing of the book would have kept its momentum.
Told through Stevens point of view, who is unashamedly self important and self obsessed, neglects to see the big picture in a lot of things: and so begins his rollercoaster ride through love and life… especially when his intentions are spurned by the one guy he wants – Ant (Anthony). Stephen is not used to rejection and this fuels his obsession.
There are plenty of colourful characters, hilarious side stories peppered throughout Aitken’s novel. His turn of phrase is fresh and delightful and even though I’m a massive fan of adventure and action in my YA books; I barely put ‘Vanity Fierce’ down.
In a world of imperfect protagonists, it was refreshing to read of a seemingly perfect one.
This story had the air of a classic novel about it, ranking up with the greats like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen and ‘The Rainbow’ by D.H Lawrence – because it dealt with a very real world, with very real characters. Emotional and epic in its own right. I make the comparison simply because ‘Vanity Fierce’ had the same impact on me as did those timeless reads (and it’s my opinion!)
Graeme Aitken also has an uncanny ability to weave important issues into his narrative without shoving them down your throat, or sensationalising them. Stephen’s journey was delicate, and dealt with the respect it deserves – where it could have turned out to feel like a political statement or after-school special. ‘Vanity Fierce’ has been a wonderful introduction into Aitken’s writing and I am definitely looking forward to adding other titles to my collection (ie: ‘50 Way of Saying Fabulous’)
If you enjoyed the movie ‘The Sum of Us’ starring Russel Crowe – definitely give this a read.
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