Young Jane Young
read in July 2018
format: paperback (library)
rating: 3.75 stars
This is a spoiler-free review!
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. (source: Goodreads)
“A mother must act like the woman she wanted her daughter to become.”
Young Jane Young has received some praise, mainly by the people I follow on Instagram. When I noticed this novel in the library, I decided to borrow it. I actually had no idea what this book was about, so I was pleasantly surprised when I learnt this is feminist contemporary fiction dealing with slut-shaming and starring Jewish characters.
I didn’t like the writing style in the very first chapter. It threw me off and I considered putting the book down because at that point, I didn’t even know much about it anyway. However, I changed my mind because only a few pages in was clearly too early to make such a decision and I am glad I did.
For me, Young Jane Young won’t be very memorable. It wasn’t innovative and the feminism isn’t very intersectional, but it was an entertaining read. I finished the entire book in two sittings and I genuinely enjoyed reading this story.
Each part is from a different point-of-view. Gabrielle Zevin has published many books, so the transition between each part was seamless. Each character had a distinct voice. The final part was written in second person. Usually that takes me some time getting used to, but I hadn’t even noticed! It was done beautifully.
Jane and Ruby were my favourite characters. Ruby’s reaction when she found out the truth was tough to read, but I found her nonetheless enchanting.
If you are looking for a quick and interesting read, Young Jane Young might be what you’re looking for. There’s one plot twist I did not see coming, I was so surprised! That said, I would’ve liked an epilogue as I grew attached to these characters and wanted to see how everything turned out.
As I have mentioned, the feminism isn’t very intersectional. It mainly deals with slut-shaming; women of color, trans women, etc. are never really mentioned. There is in fact a minor side character who is a trans woman, but it was treated as a “fun fact” and the word “transgendered” is used. I am cisgender so this isn’t mine to talk about, but I can’t figure out why the author decided to mention this character. She’s treated as an oddity, so I’d hardly call this representation. Additionally, in a book that deals with feminism, she is completely excluded from the conversation.
content and trigger warnings for many anti-fat remarks, slut-shaming (challenged), mentions of Holocaust and Hitler, sexual harassment (challenged), bullying (challenged), ableist language (including cr*zy), transphobic language (“transgendered people”), mentions of a miscarriage, cancer, mentions of sex (M/F), mention of rape, mention of depression
Young Jane Young was an entertaining read and I enjoyed following these characters’ stories. That said, if you are looking for feminist literature, I don’t think this is the most inclusive one.
Please buy me a coffee if you like my content. I am a Book Depository and Wordery affiliate. If you are interested in buying any books, please purchase from these links. you get free shipping and I get a small commission!