Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Young Jane Young - Gabrielle Zevin

Summary: Young Jane Young's heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss‑‑who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married‑‑and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn’t take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late‑night talk show punchline; she is slut‑shamed, labeled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.

How does one go on after this? In Aviva’s case, she sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. She tries to start over as a wedding planner, to be smarter about her life, and to raise her daughter to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, she decides to run for public office herself, that long‑ago mistake trails her via the Internet like a scarlet A. For in our age, Google guarantees that the past is never, ever, truly past, that everything you’ve done will live on for everyone to know about for all eternity. And it’s only a matter of time until Aviva/Jane’s daughter, Ruby, finds out who her mother was, and is, and must decide whether she can still respect her. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)


My Review: I picked this book up for a few reasons. First of all, I loved The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and you can read my review of that here. I really enjoyed it. Also, Young Jane Young was on “The Best Books of 2017” by Kirkus Reviews. Some awards I agree with, some I don’t, but I at least like to have read as many of the books from the different prize winning lists as I can. I wouldn’t want to miss my next favorite, right?!

I love Zevin’s characters. I really loved the characters in A.J. Fikry and I really loved the characters in this book as well. I think they’re funny, relatable, and very real. Fiascos happen but she doesn’t necessarily save them from themselves (or each other) which is nice. That’s how reality is, you know? So many times humans make stupid mistakes and they’re forced to deal with those mistakes. It isn’t always pretty, but it is what it is. I think that Zevin has a firm understanding of this, especially in this book which is based around one epic mistake.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this book was that I understood the background of the story. I worked for a senator when I was in college. Unlike Jane Young, I basically saw the senator once at a dinner and that was pretty much it. I don’t think I actually even spoke to him in person. He lived in D.C. and so he wasn’t even in the same part of the country for most of my internship. There is a certain amount of adrenaline that goes with such a job, however, and I certainly encountered my fair share of people who were willing to do whatever it took to make this experience all that they could. I didn’t intern long enough to experience any personal betrayals, but I did see people clawing their way to wherever they wanted to go. Maybe it’s the type of person who interns for a politician? I dunno. But I enjoyed reading this book because it was somewhat nostalgic in that way.

I loved how the book was divided up into different characters’ stories. I didn’t enjoy each character telling equally, but I still really enjoyed being a part of their lives. I very much appreciate the approachable and accessible manner in which Zevin writes. It makes it so easy to read. Her stories are compulsively readable, the writing is flawless in the way that it just facilitates the mood and the story, and I felt like I was reading a guilty pleasure because I read it so quickly and so attentively.

Although there is obviously a huge political agenda in this, I found myself completely agreeing with it (which doesn’t usually happen, by the way). Why do women have to pay for sexual mistakes in a way that no man should? How come Jane Young had to take the fall for an older predator politician? This book goes right along with all of the sexual misconduct reckoning that’s going on today, and it does it in a way that tells a story that doesn’t make the intern completely innocent, but makes it completely obvious that she shouldn’t have had to pay the way she did for a mistake that was made by both parties.

I loved the feisty women in this book—ones from each generation and ones who dealt with different things in their own way. I wouldn’t say men were favored highly in this book, but it was a really engaging, fast read that I enjoyed a lot.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is language and quite a bit of discussion of sex, as you might imagine from reading the summary. 

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