STARRED REVIEW
September 2017

Life after scandal

By Gabrielle Zevin
Review by

From bestselling novelist Gabrielle Zevin (The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry) comes a fresh take on a classic theme. Young Jane Young features witty yet compassionate storytelling from four women at different stages of their lives, each relating to the same event that uprooted them in profound and personal ways.

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From bestselling novelist Gabrielle Zevin (The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry) comes a fresh take on a classic theme. Young Jane Young features witty yet compassionate storytelling from four women at different stages of their lives, each relating to the same event that uprooted them in profound and personal ways.

Twenty-year-old Aviva Grossman is a congressional intern in South Florida with a budding career in politics. When her affair with a married congressman is discovered, her name is smeared across media outlets nationwide. In a final display of their uneven power dynamic, the blame of the affair disproportionately falls on Aviva. The congressman is consistently re-elected, while Aviva struggles to find work even out of state. The scope of her transgressions would never have tarnished her entire adult life if not for the unfortunate timing of the ubiquity of the internet and an anonymous (albeit transparent) blog she kept of the affair. Drawing appropriate parallels to Hester Prynne, Aviva decides to flee South Florida to a remote town in Maine, in the hope of beginning a new life on her own terms.

Through the relatable, entertaining perspectives of Aviva, her mother, Aviva’s teen daughter and the congressman’s wife, Zevin presents a complex and intelligent story without becoming dense. The novel’s readability does nothing to diminish the quality of its themes. The feminist message is straightforward, from its overt discussion of the topic to the presentation of its male characters, who are the supporting cast to a group of strong, unforgettable leading women.

Zevin works creatively with arrangement, allowing the story to develop nonlinearly. She uses brilliantly unusual formats, such as a series of outgoing emails to a pen pal as a way for a precocious teen to speak candidly. The final section is told through a playful choose-your-own-ending format, which, tellingly, only provides one choice—a simple yet profound way to look upon the past.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Young Jane Young

Young Jane Young

By Gabrielle Zevin
Algonquin
ISBN 9781616205041

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