It would be impossible to write about Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin, without referencing Monica Lewinsky because that’s the kind of story that this is and sadly, when you think about political sex scandals in the US, even twenty-something years later, that’s still where our minds go. That said, Zevin knows this and uses it to her advantage beautifully. Zevin’s novel, although a quick and easy read, is so much more than just the story of a sex scandal changing a young girl’s life. It’s a clever tale that really gets you thinking about the climate that still exists today, the #MeToo movement, the perils of the Internet, political scandals and the attitudes that surround shaming young people.
Aviva Grossman is a young intern caught up in a doomed romance with Aaron Levin, a relatively high profile politician. It’s the early days of the internet and she sets up a blog documenting their romance and sex life. When disaster strikes and the two of them are found out, the blog is uncovered and Aviva’s life goes into freefall. She becomes the quintessential young twenty-something woman, known only for her affair with a powerful man, whilst the man involved remains relatively unscathed.
The narrative of this tale switches between a number of characters, all of them female and all of which have a link to Aviva. It’s a book about women and how we cope, all of us differently, with what life throws at us. Whether it be an affair with a married man, single motherhood, betrayal in all its various forms or competition, Zevin teaches us about the resilience of women through a range of fantastically different and well crafted characters.
One of the many things that I also loved about this tale were all the open endings. There’s no single part of this story that’s all tied up with a ribbon and a bow, because that’s quite simply is not how life is. That said, it’s an optimistic book and although Zevin doesn’t hold your hand and tell you that everything will be alright, you instinctively know that it will be.
Finally and this is important, particularly to someone like myself who likes the silly in life, this book is funny. Zevin is funny. The humor is beautiful and sometimes subtle but it’s always there. In a world that isn’t perfectly balanced and certainly not always kind, it is ultimately the laughter that gets us through.