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Young Jane Young: A Novel Hardcover – August 22, 2017
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Praise for Young Jane Young:
"This sly, exhilarating novel takes on slut-shaming . . . and manages to be hilarious in the process."
--People(Book of the Week)
"Maybe with enough determination and love and support, women can choose their own adventures. They can start, like Aviva, by choosing not to be ashamed. In this life-affirming novel, Zevin doesn't make that look easy, but she makes it look possible."
--Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"It's brilliant and hilarious, and it makes you wince in recognition -- for the double-standard that relegates scandalized women to a life of shame even as their married lovers continue with their careers (and often their marriages), for the insatiable appetite we have for every last detail, for the ease and speed with which we stop seeing people as multilayered humans. It's the sort of book that invites us to examine our long-held beliefs and perceptions . . . It has a heart. And a spine. It's exactly, I would argue, what we need more of right now."
"A smart, intersectional feminist tour de force."
"Another charming and funny winner by the author of the 2014 best seller The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, about a woman at midlife confronting, along with her mom and daughter, a sex scandal from her youth. The perfect end-of-summer read."
--AARP, The Magazine
"[A] warm-hearted and witty book about what it means to reinvent yourself because you simply have no choice but to do so."
"This book will not only thoroughly entertain everyone who reads it; it is the most immaculate takedown of slut-shaming in literature or anywhere else. Cheers, and gratitude to the author."
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Splendid . . . A witty, strongly drawn group of female voices tells Aviva's story . . . [Zevin] has created a fun and frank tale. Her vibrant and playful writing, and the fully realized characters taking turns as narrator, bring the story a zestful energy, even while exploring dark themes of secrecy and betrayal. Zevin perfectly captures the realities of the current political climate and the consequences of youthful indiscretions in an era when the Internet never forgets."
"Presenting a sharp send-up of our culture's obsession with scandal and blame, this novel pulls at the seams of misogyny from all angles . . . Likely to be a popular book club pick."
"Satisfying and entertaining."
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She sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. This time, she tries to be smarter about her life and strives to raise her daughter, Ruby, to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, Aviva decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet and catches up–an inescapable scarlet A. In the digital age, the past is never, ever, truly past. And it’s only a matter of time until Ruby finds out who her mother was and is forced to reconcile that person with the one she knows.
My Thoughts: In the beginning of Young Jane Young: A NovelYoung Jane Young, we are thrust into the perspective of Rachel Shapiro Grossman, an aging Miami woman recently divorced. When her daughter was younger, she had worried when she and the rest of the world accidentally discovered that she had been having an affair with the Congressman for whom she was an intern. And typically, the Congressman’s life went on. He was not ruined politically; his marriage survived; and Aviva had to come up with another way to move on.
Reinventing herself as Jane Young, she moves to a small town in Maine, where she has her baby girl Ruby. Now we see her new life and how she has found a way to start over.
When Ruby is thirteen, we learn more from her perspective about her quest for answers. Like who is her father? She is precocious and knows how to Google, so it doesn’t take her long to realize that her mother is Aviva Grossman, the infamous intern who slept with a Congressman.
What will Ruby do? How will she deal with what she has learned? Will her investigation cause her to arrive at some erroneous conclusions about her paternity?
In the subsequent chapters, we flash back to Aviva’s early years, which we see unfold from her perspective, and discover some of our own answers to those questions. A delightful read that reminded me of how women pay dearly for their poor choices…and how men seem to sail through theirs. But we also learn that sometimes brave young women can change the course of their lives by boldly reinventing themselves. 5 stars.
Do you remember the summer of 2001? That innocent time in American society where CNN and the newspapers were full of "where is Chandra Levy"? Levy was the young Jewish woman from Modesto, California, who had moved to DC after college and became an intern in the office of her congressman, Gary Condit. Levy and Condit began an affair and Levy's disappearance after running in Rock Creek Park became tabloid and CNN fodder til 9/11 knocked it out of the news. Chandra Levy's body was found about a year later and the presumption was that she had not been killed by her creepy married lover. In Ziven's book, the Chandra Levy character is conflated with Monica Lewinsky and the result is Aviva Grossman/Jane Young.
"Young Jane Young" is a wonderful character study of both Aviva/Jane, but also the peripheral people in both parts of her life; before and after. Most of the women, including her mother and grandmother, her young daughter, her mentor in Maine, and the wronged-wife of the congressman are brought alive through Zevin's skillful writing. The men are less vividly drawn and tend to be somewhat caricatures; the cheating father, the lecherous congressman, and Jane's opponent in her mayoral race. The only part I didn't particularly like was the blog, but it seemed to be the best way to advance the plot. Gabrielle Zevin's book is a fun read about interesting people, who I was left wanting to know more about at book's end.
(By the way, my 5 star review can be balanced by some of the 3 star reviews. In particular, the review by "Sarah's Book Shelves", who raises many excellent points about the book's second half.)