Wednesday, December 13, 2017

REVIEW: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: Young Jane Young
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Acquired: Print ARC sent by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

From the bestselling author of the beloved The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes another perfect fable for our times--a story about women, choices, and recovering from past mistakes.

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.


I think it's important to note that I was quite young and ignorant to politics when the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal exploded, so reading Young Jane Young didn't feel as reminiscent to me as it did to many others. What it felt like, was a beloved author creating magic, yet AGAIN. What it felt like was the exploration of a topic that should never cease to be discussed: what it's like to be a woman in a world where we're handed rulebooks before our first breaths.

Told in the narrative style I favour the most, multiple perspectives, Young Jane Young becomes whole through the eyes of four women: Rachel (Jane's mother), the congressman's wife, Ruby (Jane's daughter), and Aviva (a young Jane). It begins as a broken thing though, as we learn of scandals, and consequences of impulsive decisions, and the people who are affected in the worst ways by it all. 

Young Aviva Grossman has fallen in the kind of love that only loves you back in hushed voices and away from public eyes. She's begun a sordid love affair with a local Congressman, and numerous attempts on her mother's part cannot persuade her to still her heart--or her sexual rendezvous with this very married man. After the inevitable crash and burn, Aviva relocates out of shame and in the hopes of beginning anew. With a new baby to consider (and feed, and clothe and generally ensure the safety of), Aviva/Jane trades in her political robes for a much more low-key set and starts her own wedding planning business in Maine. She soon decides that her initial calling was the right one, and runs for Mayor of her town. It's around this time that Jane's daughter, Ruby, stumbles upon a much-regretted copy of the blog Aviva/Jane kept while schmoozing with the Congressman, and now Jane has to re-live nightmares and win back the respect of her only child.

Young Jane Young was such a far cry from the whimsical setting of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, and a million kudos to Ms. Zevin for that. Not many authors can separate genres in a way that stays true to their talent, yet differs greatly from their surrounding works. The voices in this novel begged to be heard, and there wasn't a single one I didn't want to hear. It was the perfect blend of scandal, family bonds, and comedic relief. And for the love of all that is perfect, there is a CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE section that I cannot even begin to describe the genius of. Long-time readers of this author will find themselves at home here, and because of Young Jane Young's brilliant relevancy, I think many new readers of hers will pick it up as well.

Read if you liked:  
Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple (my review here)
 Sophia Kinsella, Marian Keyes, Women's Fiction

Key themes: 
family values, scandal, betrayal, self-discovery




Gabrielle Zevin is a New York Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than thirty languages. Her eighth novel, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, spent more than four months on the New York Times Bestseller list, reached #1 on the National Indie Bestseller list, and has been a bestseller all around the world. She has also written books for children and young adults, including the award-winning Elsewhere.



A huge thank-you to Algonquin Books for providing a print ARC of this book for review.


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