- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Algonquin Books (August 22, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1616205040
- ISBN-13: 978-1616205041
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 223 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #240,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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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.)
A number of reviews cited the two distinct "halves" of the book, and particularly the last section with its life "options," but I thought the entire book had a coherence, with each section building on the one before in a clever way. You learn about these characters in "layers," with each adding their distinct perspective to the whole. And the penultimate is Aviva herself, who uses the neat trick of presenting and crossing out options to vividly illustrate how (if not always why) she repeatedly opted for the seemingly worst choice available to her at each juncture in her life as a college student and intern. I imagine many of us could make similar lists of actions we might have taken but didn't, for better or worse. And of course she's right in saying the "safe" choice every time would make for a boring story (if perhaps not a boring life)! In a book that focuses heavily on women's choices, this device worked really well.
As for the minor flaws, I do agree the male characters were almost all ciphers and somewhat cliched. They were there really just for the women to react to and against, and in the aggregate, displayed all of the worst (if stereotypical) qualities of the generic male: selfishness, infidelity, sexual aggression, insincerity. One story thread I did find inconsistent was Jane's decision to withhold her mother from Ruby (and herself) -- denying her daughter not only a dad, but a grandmother. This seemed inconsistent with how Jane/Aviva had evolved, and how Rachel herself might have behaved (doing everything she could to find them and work herself back into their lives).
Overall though, this was a lovely read, as was AJ Fikrey, and I look forward to reading whatever Zevin does next.