Young Jane Young, Gabrielle Zevin
Published August 22nd 2017 by Algonquin Books
Hardcover, 294 pages
Source: ARC from ALA Annual Meeting
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.
Gabrielle Zevin’s Storied Life of AJ Fikry was one my favorites that I’ve read in the last several years so I was very excited to get to Young Jane Young. What a completely different book! If you were not hiding under a rock during the Clinton years then Aviva’s story will sound remarkably familiar to the Monica Lewinsky happenings. Aviva’s story is told in alternating perspectives from her own side of things as well as that of her mother, her daughter, and the wife of the cheating Congressman. Everyone’s life is rocked by the Congressman’s inability to keep his pants on, yet life just goes on for him. Aviva’s life can’t go on as it was thanks to the media coverage and so she changes it. She does what she has to do so that she can start to live again – becoming Jane Young.
Jane/Aviva’s part of the book is told in a kind of Choose Your Own Adventure format which I loved. Aviva knows as she’s diarying her life that she isn’t making great choices – we all sometimes know that though right? I appreciated that Zevin made Aviva smart enough that she had all her thoughts laid out and though she makes some truly bad choices she finds a way past them. I remember reading that Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves couldn’t get past the style so it wasn’t for everyone, but I thought it was a clever way to get inside Aviva’s head and decision making. I enjoyed following the repercussions of the affair through the other characters and over time.
Aviva’s story didn’t move me to tears like AJ Fikry but instead had me laughing at some of the snark. Definitely still a great read. Now I really have to get on to Gabrielle Zevin’s backlist of books.
Thank you Algonquin Books for this advance copy in exchange for a long overdue review!