Book Review: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Review- Young Jane Young
Book Title and Author: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Publication date and Publisher: August 22, 2017 by Algonquin Books
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Adult Fiction
Pages: 320 pages
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Date Read: July 29, 2017

4 Stars


Goodreads Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of the beloved The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes another perfect fable for our times–a story about women, choices, and recovering from past mistakes.

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.

A novel about a world that continues to want to define what women are and what they can, and cannot, do, Young Jane Young follows three generations of women, plus the wife of the Congressman. Told in varying voices through e-mails and even a Choose Your Own Adventure section, it captures not just the mood of this particular, highly charged moment but is an accessible, witty, smart take on the double standards that are alive and well and waiting to trip up ordinary and extraordinary women alike.

My Review:

This really was an amazing book by Gabrielle Zevin! From the very first page, I was absolutely engrossed with this funny, poignant, unique and very powerful feminist story about three generations of smart, witty Jewish women, Aviva/Jane, Rachel, her mother, and Ruby, her 13 year old daughter, as well as Embeth, wife to the congressman with who Aviva had her affair. The book follows all four of these women’s point of views as they tell their stories, which I thoroughly enjoyed since each woman had their own unique perspective not only on the sex scandal that ruined young Aviva Grossman’s life but on being a woman, a mother, a daughter, and a long-suffering wife and this, I believe gave the story its true heart and soul.

Aviva Grossman finds herself heavily embroiled in a sex scandal while working as an Congressional intern at age twenty, a scandal her mother Rachel tries very hard to help her avoid by strongly encouraging her to end the affair before it becomes public knowledge. Of course, Aviva doesn’t listen and the affair carries on until they are caught with their pants down, so to speak. Yet, while Congressman Levin walks away basically scot-free, is re-elected to office, and his wife Embeth remains supportively by his side, Aviva is horribly slut-shamed in the media and in the public eye. It doesn’t help that Aviva kept a blog of their affair, one she didn’t think anyone would read (or know would haunt her in the future-thank you Google!) that causes her name to become further fodder for public jokes and humiliations!

Aviva’s life is completely ruined. No one wants to hire her although she is a highly intelligent woman and a highly skilled political science graduate; nor will they even let her volunteer now that she is obviously a woman of no morals. After all, she slept with a married man! She must be a Jezebel! Just give her a huge Scarlet Letter A! After realizing that she cannot outrun her past indiscretions or people’s false thoughts about her, she decides she has to remake herself, start over, and become someone entirely new in a new place. So she does; she becomes Jane Young, an events planner in Maine—a young, single mother far away from Miami, her family, and her past.

There’s no denying that this novel draws a lot of parallels between the Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton sex scandal of the mid-90s when Lewinsky was humiliated for being the young intern involved with the older, married politician but there was a double standard for Clinton. He was re-elected to office just like Congressmen Levin, and Hillary stood by her man just like Embeth does in the book; but poor Monica, even today the jokes about her still fly during election season or every time a political sex scandal occurs! Oh yes, in this book Zevin gives such a fascinating portrayal of how misogyny is alive and well in our culture even though it is 2017!

But more than portray the double standards that are rampant today, Zevin depicts the power of women of every age and how feminism grows and develops from the youngest at age 13 to the oldest at age 64 (and older!). With humor and grace, she emphasizes these four women’s intelligence, independence, resiliency, confidence, strength, and female empowerment. I cannot express how much I loved these female characters—they all had something smart, endearing, and warm to impart to the reader that stresses how absolutely extraordinary women are: even Embeth, who I admit I at first thought of as weak for staying with her cheating husband but later saw as possessing her own remarkable strength of will and resilience.

There are so many great things in Young Jane Young about women and for women! Zevin unequivocally tosses slut-shaming where it needs to be—in the trash in this amazing book! This is a refreshing, quick, highly creative read that will have you laughing at times and make you fall in love with Zevin’s effortless writing style! I highly recommend it as a highly enjoyable read!

**Thank you Edelweiss, Algonquin Books, and Gabrielle Zevin for an ARC copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. **

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29 thoughts on “Book Review: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

    1. I’ve not read anything else by her, but I definitely should!! I’ll have to check out Elsewhere; thank you!! I hope you enjoy it when you read it! There are some parts that are a bit silly…the last part written as a Chose Your Own Adventure…but I overlooked them because of the overall message of the book. And I realized the author did it to highlight what it means to be young and naive, especially a young woman in a vulnerable position to a powerful, older man. Young people don’t always make the most practical choices at age 20, and I think she was trying to show that. It was a delightful book I thought. The humor was great!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Elsewhere is quite different from this one! I personally like the plot of this one better and I look forward to reading it very much. It’s such an important message and I’m curious to see how she portrays those issues you mentoned.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so glad that you enjoyed this one too! This was the first time that I read one of her books, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but she surprised me with how good she is. I look forward to reading your review tomorrow!

      I wasn’t really sure about the second half of the book either even though I thought it was quirky from the get go, especially the last chapter with Aviva’s point of view. Although I really enjoyed hearing her side of things, especially how she reinvented herself after the whole scandal since that was really empowering. I did have to analyze my thoughts about why Zevin wrote it the way she did as a Choose Your Own Chapter Adventure for a few days but then I read an interview Zevin did somewhere (I can’t think of where now except it was a WordPress blog) that addressed why she wrote that chapter the way she did and it made much more sense! Now I understood she was trying to portray how young people Aviva’s age don’t always make the right decisions even when faced with several choices and it was to help highlight Aviva’s youth, her naivety, and the power imbalance between her and Levin. But I definitely did not see the point of the parrot at all!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well…now the choose your own adventure chapter definitely makes more sense although it did seem like she was tossing too many gimmicks out there in that second half. She’s such a wonderful writer though so I’m not sure she can write a truly bad book. I highly recommend The Storied Life of AJ Fikry to you, it’s one of my all time favorites!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I’m glad I read her explanation too about that because I was sort of baffled, lol. I’ll definitely have to read that one! I’ve heard that it was a good one but after you’ve said it’s one of your favorites, that is high praise!! And she can definitely write, I agree!

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  1. Pingback: Unique Blogger Award – Growing Self
    1. Thanks Jo-Ann!! It is such a good book! So humorous! I think I was about 20 when the Monica and Bill thing happened, and I didn’t pay much attention at the time. But now, I just think how tragic. She’s 4 yrs older than I am. It could have been me or any one of us taken advantage of by an older male colleague or professor, etc. It happens much too often. She really was ruined and is just a joke now…😔 I’m answering your last comment in an email along with the email you sent ages ago!! Using the voice thing is a learning experience lol. And I know it’s going to be long so I thought I would send it all in one e-mail. I didn’t want you to think that I had forgotten about you because I haven’t. I took a mini break to eat lunch and answer some comments but I have to get back to homework. Talk soon ❤❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jenn! It’s really good, and I hope you enjoy it too when you read it! Have a great weekend too ❤ And thanks, it’s my youngest son’s 17th birthday tomorrow, so we’ll be doing lots of celebrating 🎉🎉 Seems like yesterday he was a baby….💕😍💕 Talk soon!! ❤🤗

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I saw this title featured in the New Books section of one of the magazines I subscribe to–and it looked good. Your review makes me want to put it close to the top of my pile! It poses some great questions of our media-obsessed culture. I always felt sorry for Monica Lewinski whose own name became mud. This looks like a poignant exploration of what happens when a youthful mistake/indiscretion/or bag of shit hits the fan big time. Also poses some good questions with the multi-generational perspective. Thanks for a great review, Stephanie!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Susan! It was really good and so relevant since women are still treated as 2nd rate to men in the workplace…sex scandal or not!! Powerful feminist story! I feel for Monica too! Terrible thing she went through even though I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time since I think I was all of 19 or 20 and didn’t care who the President was screwing. Now, I think she got more than screwed. Misogyny at work!! I hope you enjoy the book if you read it 😊


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