Thank you, Gabrielle Zevin, for writing this astute novel about the relationships between women after young political intern in South Florida has an affair with her boss. The echoes of the Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton scandal are undeniable. Zevin reinvents the sadly familiar trope more cleverly and warmly than I would have guessed. We think we know this story, but Zevin shows us that we don’t. Even though this is fiction, there are “real” people behind the headlines.
The novel presents five perspectives (four different characters) in order that add to the overall narrative. I like that we get one character’s perspective at length, rather than alternating the story on a rotation between characters. This allows me to spend time with that character and get to know her. And by the end of the novel, I do feel like I know these characters — their strengths and weaknesses, their flaws, and their poor choices.
There are two aspects of this novel that make this a must-read.
1. The storytelling is simply marvelous. Gabrielle Zevin finds unique and compelling ways to relate the story of Aviva Grossman, the aforementioned intern. In one section, teenage Ruby shares her perspective through a series of emails to her “pen pal” in Indonesia. In another, we get a sharp choose-your-own-adventure format. Neither feels gimmicky or trite.
2. Zevin never allows the narrative to tell you what you should think. She presents the characters’ stories (i.e. decisions that lead to actions) and lets you decide. To me this shows tremendous control on the author’s part. She subtly and cleverly guides you but never preaches.
Young Jane Young is a terrific story with deep, rich, complicated characters that will leave you asking questions that are still relevant today.
Four hearts for this one. ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
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