Vintage Veronicaby Erica S. Perl
Veronica Walsh is 15, fashion-minded, fat, and friendless. Her summer job in the Consignment Corner section (Employees Only!) of a vintage clothing store is a dream come true. There Veronica can spend her days separating the one-of-a-kind gem garments from the Dollar-a-Pound duds, without having to deal with people. But when two outrageous yet charismatic
Veronica Walsh is 15, fashion-minded, fat, and friendless. Her summer job in the Consignment Corner section (Employees Only!) of a vintage clothing store is a dream come true. There Veronica can spend her days separating the one-of-a-kind gem garments from the Dollar-a-Pound duds, without having to deal with people. But when two outrageous yet charismatic salesgirls befriend her and urge her to spy on and follow the mysterious and awkward stock boy Veronica has nicknamed the Nail, Veronica’s summer takes a turn for the weird. Suddenly, what began as a prank turns into something else entirely. Which means Veronica may have to come out of hiding and follow something even riskier for the first time: her heart.
"The protagonist is a self-described “fat girl” who is not obsessed with losing weight–a much-needed character in young adult fiction. An enjoyable read filled with quirky characters."
Review, Booklist, February 2010:
"In her first novel, Perl masterfully sets her scene."
Read an Excerpt
By Erica S. Perl
Knopf Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2010 Erica S. Perl
All right reserved.
Friday is seventy-five-cents day at Dollar-a-Pound. Today is Friday, so when I get to the store a few minutes after nine, the line of Pickers is around the block. To make matters worse, it's one of those steamy July days that start out hot and miserable and clearly intend to get hotter and miserabler by the minute.
"Crap," I say, stopping in my tracks at the sight of the line and wiping the sweat from my brow.
Why I come to work on Fridays is beyond me.
The Pickers are the Dollar-a-Pound regulars. They show up extra early, grumbling and jockeying for position, each and every Friday morning to await the doors opening at the largest vintage clothing store in the Northeast: the clothing bonanza (home of the original dollar-a-pound!), otherwise known as the store caught in a time warp!, according to the big neon-pink and black sandwich board sign out front. Whoever made the store signs a million years ago was a big fan of exclamation marks.
Dollar-a-Pound takes up the entire first floor of the store. It is exactly like it sounds: a huge, towering heap of used clothes (known to those of us who work at the store simply as The Pile), spilling like a giant stain over most of the painted wood floor.
This hippie guy named Bill runs Dollar-a-Pound. He claims that the Fridaydiscount draws the most aggressive Pickers. He also says that sometimes he has to break up Pile fights. Apparently, what happens is that overeager Pickers claim opposite ends of the same thing--usually something long, like a pair of overalls. Then it's like some dumb cartoon: they discover they're connected and start scrapping and yelling. Elbows swinging, feet flailing, lots of shuffling, and the inevitable sound of fabric ripping.
Bill keeps a bottle of seltzer under the counter at all times. Once I asked him if he had it to spray on Pile fights, like I saw my neighbor do with regular water when his dog got into a fight.
"Nah, man," he said, deadpan. "I just like seltzer."
I stand there, confronting the line and suppressing the tidal-wave urge to run in the opposite direction.
I don't do crowds.
Too much potential for anonymous heckling. I mean, look at me. My unruly hair, bunched into two lopsided pigtails. My cat's-eye sunglasses and, of course, my clothes. Today I'm wearing my second-favorite skirt, which is a white 1950s circle style with bright red appliqued slices of cherry pie on the pockets and a hemline border of cherries playing tag. On top, I'm wearing one of my many bowling shirts, which has the words Valley Vending stitched in cursive on the back.
And if my ensemble isn't enough to bring out the guffaws of the masses, there's always my size. Big girls like me know it's never a good idea to have a bunch of people standing behind you. This past school year, my freshman year, brought this point home more than ever.
To state the obvious: high school is a lousy place to be a fat girl. Of course, the good news is, if you ARE a fat girl, you're not really risking much socially to become The Fat Girl Who Dresses Weird. So once the eye-rolling subsided, my freshman year was basically defined by my being almost universally ignored.
As the crowd of Pickers rumbles restlessly, I turn slowly on the heels of my shoes. The tulle layers of the big bubble-gum-pink vintage crinoline I'm wearing under my cherry pie skirt whisper uneasily to each other.
I smooth my crinoline absently, distracted by a different siren song. It is the sultry voice of an iced mocha smoothie and it comes from the Mookie's Donut Shop, next door to The Clothing Bonanza. Veronicaaaa! Come get me! It's soooo hot outside, and I'm soooo cold and refreshing! The donuts chime in, too, harmonizing. Us, too! Don't forget about us! They're those chocolate-glazed ones, I can tell.
Of course, I also hear another voice. My mother, chiding, One moment on the lips, Veronica! I smile to myself, imagining her here right now, witnessing my premeditated act of debauched gluttony (Donuts? AND a milkshake? At nine in the morning???). My mother, the dance diva, the plie princess, the prima pain-in-the-ass-a. It's a good thing she thinks my summer job is halfway across town, at some animal shelter run by one of her former dance students. I picture her barricading the door to Mookie's Donuts with her skinny little spandex-clad body, having a cow and a half over my inability to live by her beloved Weight Watchers point system.
In my mind, I swing the door open, knocking her out of the way. Sorry, lady. Some days, you just need a donut.
In my town, Mookie's Donut Shops are everywhere. People call them "Mooks" and give directions by them, like "Go down a couple of blocks and turn right at the Mooks."
The Mooks next door to The Clothing Bonanza is like the one that time forgot. The counters and stools are pink vinyl and chrome, like in an old diner, even though the Mookie's Donuts corporate colors are yellow and orange. It's sort of fitting that the only Mooks in town that missed out on being renovated is the one next door to The Store Caught in a Time Warp. Of course, this Mooks doesn't take the retro theme any further than the stools and counters. The employees all wear Mookie's Donuts pee-and-cheddar-cheese-striped polo shirts, which you'd think would be an equal opportunity fashion disaster, but which look particularly hideous on girls built like me. Not that I'd ever consider working there under any circumstances.
The Clothing Bonanza, thank God, has no dress code except No New Clothing! The Florons, which is what my boss, Claire, calls everyone who works on the main retail floor, wear a pretty wide variety of vintage clothes, often mixed with more modern touches like blue hair dye, tats, and piercings. Mod is very popular with the Florons--monochromatic polyester minidresses and the like--as are Glam, Goth, and what I like to think of as Gloth, which is a look that's kind of both. And kind of neither.
My own look is a little hard to define, or at least I like to think it is. I'm all about individual pieces. If they speak to me, I buy them, even if they don't fit. Back when my mom didn't cringe at the sight of me quite so much, we used to do all sorts of dumb, crunchy activities together. So I actually know how to sew pretty well, which helps if you want to wear a dress that is a couple of sizes too big or, as is more often the case for me, too small.
Most of what I buy and what I wear is stuff from the fifties, although occasionally I'll venture out of my decade for the right piece. The only thing I skip is the shoes--fifties girls' shoes are death. I stick with men's stuff like two-tone creepers and bricks, good clompy shoes that go with everything. I also have a pair of Chuck Taylors, and a pair of bowling shoes that I only wear in the winter. But from the ankles up, I like girly stuff. Tulle crinolines, full circle skirts, bolero jackets, silk dressing gown jackets, beaded cardigans. Especially beaded cardigans. I'm also a sucker for anything with fruit on it. Cherries, pineapples, lemons . . . I even have a watermelon dress. The fifties were all about fruit.
Today, under a ridiculous number of layers of pink tulle, I'm wearing my (men's size eight-and-a-half wide) black and white two-tone creepers, which are uncomfortably hot but not as bad as bowling shoes. When I swish on over to the Mooks, there's a line out the door there, too. It's not Pickers, of course. In fact, it seems to be a lot of the Florons. I recognize two of them, Zoe and Ginger, right off the bat. They are in line a few people up from me, but they're very noticeable because Zoe's like a full head taller than anybody else and Ginger's got bright pink hair and a squeaky laugh you can hear about a mile away. They seem like they're probably about nineteen or so--enough older than me that I'm simply not on their radar, even though they've been on mine since day one.
Zoe and Ginger are pretty much always together. With the exception of their shared appreciation for thick black eyeliner, they look about as dissimilar as any two girls possibly could. Zoe's look is over-the-top Gloth. She's also, as I mentioned, an Amazon. She's got a jet-black Cleopatra hairdo and these va-va-voom black outfits that a drag queen would envy. Ginger, on the other hand, is short and skinny. She's got a long horsy face, big eyes that shift from side to side like one of those fifties cat clocks, and long, stringy hair that changes color practically every week. She dresses mostly in shapeless sixties shifts and white go-go boots. She's also fond of Hello Kitty baby barrettes.
I get in line several people behind them and wait. Bill is there, so I give him a noncommittal nod. Bill is an old guy, maybe twenty-five, with a long, straggly ponytail. He sounds even older when he opens his mouth, because he calls everyone "man" and says things like "heavy" to mean that something sucks. He's also the closest thing I have to a friend at work. Unfortunately, he seems to think he's my ex, because at the beginning of the summer, when I first started working at the store, I went over to his apartment after work a couple of times to watch movies and eat nachos. I guess he thinks that meant something. I think it didn't. When I stopped coming over, I told him that it wasn't him, it was the goddamned Weight Watchers. Nachos are just plain not worth the points.
Plus, he's boring, but I didn't tell him that.
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Vintage Veronica by Erica S. Perl Copyright © 2010 by Erica S. Perl. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Erica S. Perl is the author of three picture books: Chicken Bedtime Is Really Early, illustrated by George Bates; Ninety-three in My Family, illustrated by Mike Lester; and Chicken Butt! illustrated by Henry Cole. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two daughters.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Gold Star Award Winner! Fifteen-year-old vintage fashionista Veronica Walsh is not a people person. Luckily, she's found the ideal summer job sorting through Dollar-a-Pound's clothing pile, deciding which items make it to the main floor of the resale clothing shop and pretty much avoiding all contact with the human race. Veronica believes herself content in isolation, until she comes across two snarky yet engaging sales girls on break. When Zoe and Ginger encourage her to spy on their equally self-contained (but in their opinion somewhat shady) co-worker, Len (aka "The Nail"), Veronica can't resist. Unfortunately, Veronica finds herself liking Len, and soon feels the pangs of conscience over her own less-than-honorable intentions. Can Veronica regain her integrity, maintain a budding romance, *and* win the approval of her newfound friends? VINTAGE VERONICA is one of my favorite reads from 2010, and for someone incapable of naming a favorite because there are just so many great books in the world, I think that says a lot. I loved this book! I loved the details about vintage fashion, the Dollar-a-Pound's quirky staff, scenes depicting store regulars picking through The Pile to find their own personal gems, and the parallel discovery Veronica makes of the human "gems" populating her world.
Talk about a book that will put you through the gauntlet...Vintage Veronica was definitely a surprise to me to say the least. I didn't think it was possible to undergo feeling so many different emotions throughout the reading of a book and yet at the same time have the underlying tone remain so light and easy to read. As a debut YA author, Perl has impressed me with her writing and story telling ability. Some parts of the novel had me laughing out loud, which doesn't happen often. Veronica and the Nail trying on vintage clothing is a prime example. Some parts had me cringing as Veronica's mom's talks with her inevitably almost always circled back to her weight watcher's points system. It was just so easy to feel a part of the story and the characters that all of these feelings and emotions...well it was like I was there experiencing each and every one of the situations first hand along with the characters themselves. There were, however, times throughout the novel that I really just wanted to shake Veronica. Anything to get her to wake up to the reality of the actions of the characters she interacted with and the consequences that were inevitably going to follow. There were many points in the story when I truly had a hard time liking her at all. This was new for me, usually a female protagonist is easy to relate to and like quickly, but Veronica was constantly pushing me to the edge of my patience. It was at the same time though that I realized Perl displays an uncanny ability to portray the characters she created so realistically that you can't help but take part in their journey with them. When Veronica was disappointed at herself and her actions, I was disappointed with her as well. When she was hopeful, I was right there with her, sympathizing with her attempts to correct the wrongs she had committed. It was amazing! And don't let me forget to mention the actual store in which Veronica works. I can only say that in the beginning I was not thinking this was a store I would ever want to find myself shopping in, but by the end I can only say that I wish I had one right down the street from me. Veronica's ability to pick out the riches among the rags had me craving a shopping trip of my own. If you haven't picked this read up yet, go out and get it, you'll be glad you did. The way Perl weaved her story together while dealing with real life issues like self image, peer pressure, family struggles, etc...and yet still managing to have her readers leaving this story feeling good while dealing with heavy matters was extremely enjoyable. I'm definitely glad I had the opportunity to read this novel and can't wait to see what Perl produces next.