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Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin



Zevin is a vibrant, young novelist who recently published In the Age of Love and Chocolate (2013) for young adults. She is best known for her young adult novel, Elsewhere, published in 2005 when she was only 28. And most recently, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry (2014) delighted readers of all ages. To date, Zevin has published 9 novels, 5 of which are for teens.

Her newest novel, Young Jane Young, is about a college student who interns for her handsome, charismatic and married congressman, Aaron Levin, and ends up having an affair with him. The story is told through the eyes of five women—all different ages, and thus, all from different perspectives. The characters are: Jane; Rachel, Jane’s mother; Ruby, Jane’s daughter; Jane’s grandmother, who has sage advice for everyone; and Embeth, the congressman’s long-suffering wife. Through these characters, we see how our feelings about an event change depending on our age.

For example, when Jane is in her teens and 20s, Rachel is critical of Aviva’s appearance. Then, after Aviva’s affair, when she cannot get hired anywhere because of her infamy, her mom comes across as overbearing and even unsympathetic. Years later, when Aviva moves out and becomes emotionally distant

Similarly, Jane at age 20 bares scant resemblance to the savvy woman we see later in the novel. As the older Jane disdains a client’s conniving husband, she wistfully reflects:

It’s hard to know what I would think of Levin if I encountered him today… In Levin, these qualities were leavened with intelligence and an intense, almost painful empathy for his fellow human beings. Still, it must be said…Maybe, despite everything, I think kindly of Levin because I knew him when I was easily impressed, because I knew him when I was young. (p. 115)

Young Jane Young is a heart-warming novel about the paths we choose and those that are chosen for us. It is a novel about shaming and bullying—a most appropriate theme in this soundbite and digital age. But above all, this book resonates with hope, humor, empathy, and second chances.

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