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Thursday, March 09, 2023

Review: Young Jane Young

 After reading the brilliant Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, I went back to read other Zevin books. Young Jane Young was published in 2017, after Trump won the 2016 election. The lead character is effectively Monica Lewinski, a young intern who has an affair with a married congressman, rather than the president, derailing her career and aspirations. Unlike the real Monica Lewinski, this version chose to move away, change her name, and become an event planner.

The writing style is still transparent, easy to read, and full of fun gimmicks like a section in the book that's written like a choose your own adventure book but with all the options the character didn't choose crossed out. It's an easy book to read, but the deep flaw in the book is that none of the characters are sympathetic.

The lead protagonist, of course, is someone you want to shake and say, "Stop making life destroying decisions!" She ignores good advice from her parents, never chooses the right path when she make a wrong choice, and full of self-pity. Her mom isn't terribly sympathetic either. Surprisingly, Jane's daughter Ruby also comes across as unsympathetic and full of hubris. That this didn't stop me from reading the book is a testament to Zevin's skill as a writer.

At the end of the novel Zevin makes a statement that she wrote the book as a testament to how women politicians have to put up with stuff men never have to. That's a fair testament to say, Clinton vs Trump. But on the other hand, maybe someone who makes awfully bad life choices shouldn't expect life to come easy, and history is full of men who started out from a much worse position than the life of privilege Zevin's protagonist had, so I'm not sure Zevin quite makes her point.

I find it good to read books written earlier from authors I admire and enjoy --- it really shows how much she developed between the two books. I wouldn't say that Young Jane Young is a book I'd avoid, but I'd definitely say it didn't feel nearly as great a book as her latest novel.

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