Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Interestings

Book: The Interestings
Author: Meg Wolizer

The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed.

The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.-Goodreads

Review: I loved the beginning of The Interestings, when a group of teenagers meet at a summer camp and become friends. There was the wealthy underachieving boy, the beautiful/serious girl, the genius, the musician, the dancer and the outsider who joins the fold by being known as the funny one. I never went to a camp like this but the experiences seemed very genuine. While the novel is told from several character perspectives, Jules (the funny one as we are constantly reminded) is the primary voice. Herein lies the central problem with The Interestings-Jules was not interesting nor funny.  I really enjoyed her as a teen and thought her feelings of inadequacy among her friends as well as her relationship with her mother and sister were spot on. However, as she grew up and became an envious, jealous and all around annoying adult I began to slightly hate her (her husband called her out on her behavior a few times, which was great but then they kind of swept it under the rug). I wish the author spent more time on Jonah (the musician) as his backstory and childhood were very interesting. I also wish we had some perspectives from Ash, we only saw her through her friends eyes, never how she saw herself. There was a date-rape early on in the book that had potential for tension and drama. I'll refrain from spoilers but it will also a little ho-hum and never fully resolved. 

When I finished this book (I shockingly teared up at the ending) I thought 'eh, it was okay' but I was surprised when I found myself thinking about it for days afterward. For while it isn't entirely interesting, it's a very real portrayal of life. Wolitzer touches on a lot of themes including friendship, love, marriage, success, money, death, children and illness. Stepping away from the book, although I didn't like adult Jules, I can understand her jealousy toward Ethan and Ash (although she needed to let go of it WAY sooner than she did). 

A couple of random observations: Ethan was constantly referred to as ugly while Jonah's boyfriend was referred to by his first and last name. I kept thinking 'where was the editor?'

Anyway-if you are looking for an action packed book about interesting people this isn't for you. If you are looking for a very realistic portrayal of...well, real life type relationships, you might enjoy this one. 

Grade: 3.5/5

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