Opening sentence: “My dear friend Roz Horowitz met her new husband online dating, and Roz is three years older and fifty pounds heavier than I am, and people have said that she is generally not as well preserved, and so I thought I would try it even though I avoid going online too much.”
Young Jane Young holds the special honour of being my first (and to date: only) blind book buy. I was at the Stylist Live event and the Rare Birds Book Club had a stand. Having a blind date with a book is something I’ve wanted to do for a while and after having a little chat with the founder, Rachel, I got a feel for the type of books she selects for the Rare Birds Book Club and decided to go for it!
Luckily, it turned out that I had picked a book that looked interesting from the synopsis (a story inspired by the Monica Lewinsky / Bill Clinton scandal) and that I hadn’t actually read yet – or even heard of before.
So, onto said story: Aviva Grossman is a young, ambitious but insecure congressional intern who has an affair with the much older (and married) congressman she is working for. Their affair is discovered and her life is ruined: A quick Google search gives potential employers all they need to know about her dubious reputation, and her career in politics looks impossible. Aviva decided to take drastic action, changes her name and moves to a new city. She does embark on a new career, but politics is in her heart, so will she overcome her past indiscretions to achieve her dream job?
I liked the fresh, snappy structure of Young Jane Young – there are five chapters, each told by a different character: Rachel Grossman (Aviva’s mother), Jane Young, Ruby Young (Jane’s daughter), Embeth Levin (the congressman’s wife) and Aviva Grossman. The five voices were all distinguishable from each other and kept the plot moving along at a good pace. I definitely had a soft spot for some characters more than others and found myself wishing I had a few more chapters from them (Rachel) and I could have done without the gimmick of the final chapter. It distracted me and didn’t make sense as it was a ‘choose your own ending’ concept (as per these classic books), but without giving you the ability to actually choose your own ending, example:
If you run, turn to page 96.
If you stay, turn to page 110.
One option was always crossed out, so you – the reader – would not be getting that option, you had no choice but to turn to page 110. I can see why it was used, to show the character’s struggle with her decision making, but the ending would have been far stronger without this.
But, I am choosing to not end this review on a negative as for introducing me to a new author, giving me a story I haven’t read in a novel before and meaning I picked a book off the shelf I ordinarily wouldn’t have, I really liked Young Jane Young. Gabrielle Zevin has a contemporary tone to her voice that is refreshing to read and the feminist message that ran throughout felt not only topical but wonderfully empowering.
/ Published by Abacus 2018
/ 304 pages
/ Rating 4/5