Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin ★★★☆☆ #BookReview

yjySynopsis from Goodreads
Aviva Grossman is a bright, ambitious congressional intern with a promising political future ahead of her until she makes the mistake of having an affair with her very married boss … and writing what she thinks is an anonymous blog about it. When the affair dramatically comes to light, it’s not the popular congressman who takes the fall, it’s Aviva–and her life suddenly seems over before it’s hardly begun. Slut-shamed and hounded by the media, she becomes a late-night talk show punchline. Determined to rebuild her life on her own terms, Aviva changes her name, moves from Florida to a small town in Maine, starts her own wedding planning business … and decides to continue a surprise pregnancy.

But when “Jane” decides to run for public office, that long-ago mistake–an inescapable scarlet A–trails her via the Internet, threatening to derail her life yet again. It’s only a matter of time until her daughter finds out who her mother once was–and is forced to reconcile that person with the one she thinks she knows …

My Thoughts
This book has been on my To Be Read list for over a year and I was finally able to squeeze it in between some ARCs I’ve been reading. I really enjoyed The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by the same author, so I was keen to read one of her other books. However, Young Jane Young didn’t have the same impact on me as Fikry did. Here are my Pros and Cons:

Pros

  1. This is definitely an interesting look at how women and men are viewed differently by the public when a high profile affair is discovered. Inevitably the women take the fall – and by women I mean the adulteress as well as the wife. The wife is scorned, shamed, and challenged if she stands by her husband and the adulteress is scorned, shamed, and challenged for tempting the husband into the affair in the first place (because society assumes it had to be all her fault, right?). The adulteress is outcast, considered morally deficient, and basically has her life ruined. The man, however, can often just say “I made a mistake” and all is forgiven. The man can go on with his life. The woman he was involved with has to slink to the shadows and disappear. It is an unfortunate double standard we’ve seen in played out many times throughout history. I 100% do not support or condone adulterous affairs no matter who initiates them or participates, but it seems quite unfair that it takes two to tango, but apparently only one has to take the fall.
  2. I enjoyed how the book was presented from various female viewpoints; although the format did cause some parts to become quite repetitive. The book addresses the perspectives of Aviva (at the time of the affair and in the future as Jane), her mother (Rachel), her daughter (Ruby), and Embeth (the congressman’s wife). It was interesting to see how the effects of the affair rippled through so many lives, even well into the future.
  3. I appreciated that while Aviva/Jane was treated poorly by everyone after the affair was discovered, the author didn’t write her as a victim.
  4. I loved the writing style for the first several sections (see Cons #2 and #3 below). It was fast-paced, lively, interesting, and captivating. It was like you were conversing with someone instead of reading.

Cons

  1. The book became a bit repetitive due to the multi-viewpoint format (see Pro #2 above).
  2. Ruby’s perspective was presented via a series of emails written to an international pen pal. It started off as a cute way to show her viewpoint, but it got old really quickly and ultimately was distracting and annoying. Something as simple as changing the subject of the emails a few times instead of stringing well over 20 RE:s (seriously, I think I counted up to 23 at one point) might have changed my opinion slightly about this format. Once I started noticing all the RE:s it was like I couldn’t focus on anything else. I’m sure others may not be bothered much by something like this, but I was and it would have been such a simple thing to change.
  3. The “Choose Your Own Adventure” writing style for the Aviva Grossman viewpoint section was also very odd to me. I really couldn’t get into it, it didn’t feel realistic at all, and it was also distracting. The Ruby and Aviva sections made what was a good book for me initially, end up a little gimmicky with the abrupt changes in style.
  4. Most of the voices in the book seemed really authentic to me, except for Ruby. For some reason I didn’t connect with her and her story. She seemed too mature for her age. I can’t quite define it, but something about her just didn’t feel right to me.

Ultimately this is an interesting and thought-provoking book about the double standards that are often applied in situations such as high profile affairs. I think it was also a good lesson to not get involved in affairs in the first place! The impact of adultery, particularly in a high-profile situation, will very likely be heavily one-sided and have serious consequences.

Even though I personally had some issues with how the Ruby and Aviva viewpoints were written, I would still recommend this book. It is a quick read, and while it wasn’t quite as good to me as Fikry was, it was still a solid story worth reading.

Published August 22, 2017 by Algonquin Books.

My rating – 3 out of 5

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