Title: Young Jane Young
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Little, Brown
Format: Trade Paperback, 294 pages
Rating: 5 Stars
I had seen good things about this book from lots of bloggers I trust. And then an advanced reading copy showed up at my work (the bookshop work) so I obviously snatched it up. And then it sat around, gathering dust, waiting for me to decide now was the right time. NOW IS THE TIME. (Or well, two weeks ago was the time…) I didn’t read the blurb before I jumped in and I think that I enjoyed it more because of it. But I still included the blurb here, because I’m using blurb information in my review anyway. 😛 If you trust me though, just go and get the book and stop reading here.
Twenty-year-old Aviva Grossman makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss – who is beloved, successful, married and a high-profile figure in politics – and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn’t take the fall, but Aviva does. She becomes a late-night talk show punchline; she is slut-shamed, labelled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.
How does one go on after this? Aviva sees no way out but to become Jane Young and move to a remote town in Maine. She starts over as a wedding planner, tries to be smarter about her life, and raises 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. 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.
The book is told in five sections, each with a different perspective. We are first introduced to Aviva through her mother, Rachel, a proud woman who misses her daughter and is trying to live the life she has been given, now that is divorced. I loved Rachel. Her voice is pure and yearning, and it was a perfect introduction to the titular character as a flawed but adored daughter. The section is a love letter to the relationship between mothers and daughters. This, and the last section, were my favourites, a perfect cushion to a fantastic read.
It then moves to Jane, who now lives in Maine. (I know nothing about the US but Maine is cold and she used to live in California which I think is hot? There was a little bit of talk about the weather.) Jane has made good. She is a very successful wedding planner and an excellent mother to Ruby. She worries about her a lot. Ruby is smart, but not fitting in socially. There is so much motherly love in this chapter too, and Jane is so genuine. She is absolutely the kind of woman everyone could be friends with.
Third up, we have Ruby’s perspective, told in letters to a pen pal. There is so much grief as she discovers her mother’s past. She is questioning the foundation of her love as her idol is brought back down to earth. I must say, this was my least favourite section, potentially because the voice is still immature, as Ruby is only an eight-year-old, even if she does come across as a bit older. (I did empathise with that – I too was a precocious, loner child.)
I was pleased that we were privy to the perspective of the adulterer’s wife. Embeth was an interesting case. She has frail health, and she is bewildered by much of what occurs. But she is strong. She has overcome a lot, and she will continue to do so. Beside her, her husband looks weak. I absolutely love that the men are unimportant in this story. Embeth is powerful and compassionate, and I love her for it.
The last chapter was excellent. Told in a choose-your-own-adventure style, it tells the story of what happened through a young Aviva’s eyes. It is devastating as she reflects on the choices she made versus the ones she should have made.
This book is wonderful. It is about women. It is about their power, their strength, their ability to overcome everything the world throws at them and build themselves back up. It is about women supporting women. It notes that society is rotten in its treatment of young women in sex scandals. It shows that media scrutiny and the internet age mean a mistake once made is made forever. It must be faced, and we can face it.
I cannot wait to read more by Gabrielle Zevin, especially The Storied Life of A. J. Fikryabout which I have also heard good things. But this one absolutely blew me out of the water and I am recommending it to everyone I know. It’s that good. READ IT. You will not regret it.
Have you read this? Did you adore it as much as I did? Are you inspired to seek it out? TALK TO ME! 😛