The Interestings {Review & Giveaway}

by Dawn

Following a cast of characters through their lives over almost forty years is a formidable task, yet it’s one that Meg Wolitzer has taken on with her new novel The Interestings. This is one of this season’s much-talked about books, and after consuming the 480 page novel in just a few days, I’m in the “loved it!” camp of readers.

In the summer of 1974, Julie Jacobson went away to an arts-themed summer camp run by two aging hippies, and at fifteen, the course of her life was set into motion as the result of one nonchalant invitation. After accepting her tent mate Ash’s invitation to hang out with her group of friends, Julie was transformed from a self-perceived “nothing” into Jules, someone who belonged in a group of irony-loving, slightly profane adolescents. The six teenagers who sat together in Boys Teepee 3 could never have fathomed the ways in which their futures were intertwined, with some relationships set to wax and wane over the years, and others to go down unimaginable paths. That first night they all crowded onto the dirty floor of the teepee, their jokes a mix of typical adolescent silliness and a budding sense of the disturbing nature of the politics and social issues of the day, they embraced a name for themselves. “The Interestings” was meant to be ironic, a stab at their perceptions of being inconsequential. For Jules, in her awe at these personalities like none she’d ever met before, the name was more than fitting:

The name was ironic, and the improvisational christening was jokily pretentious, but still, Julie Jacobson thought, they were interesting. These teenagers around her, all of them from New York City, were like royalty and French movie stars, with a touch of something papal. Everyone at this camp was supposedly artistic, but here, as far as she could tell, was the hot little nucleus of the place. She had never met anyone like these people; they were interesting compared not only with the residents of Underhill, the New York suburb where she’d lived since birth, but also compared with what was generally out there, which at the moment seemed baggy suited, nefarious, thoroughly repulsive.

Jules finds the others the most fascinating, often continuing to feel like an outsider among the group even many years later. Yet Wolitzer has made her the center of the story, with the others’ lives being described around her and her perception of them. None of them are perfect by any means, and through the course of almost four decades, they all make missteps in their own ways, and to certain degrees of significance. Through it all, though, they remain emotionally connected in a way that can often happen when people first meet at such a pivotal time of development.

Wolitzer is a masterful storyteller, taking readers from one moment in time to many years later with a seemingly passing statement, subtly foreshadowing events to come or referencing a distant time in the future. The chapters don’t always flow chronologically, but the tone is set in a way that it’s easy for readers to make the jumps in time, altering the images in their heads to account for aging or setting changes. The shifts allow for the stories to unfold gradually, and some character developments change course as stories are unveiled from the past. Personally, I loved this format, coming to expect some twists and turns from the past to be revealed to help inform the characters’ situations in the present time. I was completely drawn in by The Interestings, an incredible character-driven novel that had me openly weeping at times and utterly fascinated from beginning to end.

Have I gotten you interested? We have one copy of THE INTERESTINGS to give away today. Enter via the rafflecopter below, US and Canada shipping addresses only, please.

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Email Author    |    Website About Dawn

When she's not reviewing books, 5 Minutes for Books contributor Dawn (and her online alter ego, morninglight mama) can be found blogging at my thoughts exactly and contributing to The DC Moms.

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jen H May 20, 2013 at 9:14 am

I want to read it! I don’t intentionally keep in touch with anyone from those years (I’m not avoiding them, really), but since I live in the same place I did then, I keep running into them!

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2 Anne May 20, 2013 at 11:13 am

I don’t keep in contact with anyone since we have moved far away and it was many years ago.

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3 Joanna May 20, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I’d love to add this to my growing summer reading list!

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4 Joanna May 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm

I am back in the UK right now and staying with the only elementary school friend I am still in touch with.

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5 Bonnie May 20, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I am still in touch with one friend that I have known since 2nd grade.

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6 Sue May 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Yes, I keep in touch with a few of my MS and HS classmates.

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7 Jenna Evans May 20, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Sadly, I am not really in close touch with anyone from grade school…….but the book sounds like a great read!

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8 Christine May 20, 2013 at 10:37 pm

I have one and that’s simply because we grew closer in high school. We lost contact through college, but she contacted me (with a handwritten letter via snail mail!) after she saw my engagement announcement in the paper. I think you changed my mind about this book. The first reviews I read didn’t seem to interest me, but now I’m intrigued.

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9 Brandy W. May 20, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Unbelievably, YES! I met my closest friend in middle school-7th grade.

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10 Mel May 21, 2013 at 10:16 am

Not very often.

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11 Liz May 21, 2013 at 11:59 am

Yes! We had an elementary school reunion 2 years ago!

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12 Charlene S May 21, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Yes still in contact with 4 friends from school.

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13 Maureen May 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm

No, my family made a dramatic geographic move when I entered HS so I lost touch with all my MS and grade school friends when I made that move.

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14 Beth C May 21, 2013 at 6:48 pm

I’ve been out of school for nearly 50 years and still keep in contact with about 15 of the girls I started kindergarten with!

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15 Ruthie B May 21, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I only see people when I go to reunions once every few years.

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16 Bree May 21, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Yes! My best friends now have been my best friends since I was 5!

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17 Chris May 22, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I don’t keep in touch with anyone from MS or HS – we all took very different paths (and a major move added to that).

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18 Darlene Jones-Nelson May 22, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I am still close to 4 elememtary school friends and like 5 middle school friends

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19 holly May 22, 2013 at 5:41 pm

dying to read this!

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20 Jenny May 22, 2013 at 8:11 pm

I have one friend from elementary school that I still talk with often.

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21 Anita Yancey May 23, 2013 at 7:52 pm

No, I lost touch with all of them years ago. We just moved around so much.

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22 Amy Tolley May 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm

i am not in touch with anyone from my past i have completely moved out of the state i graduated from and moved to another due to my grandmother getting sick is how we came to move here….i have talked to some but not on a regular basis…thanks

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23 Jessica T May 24, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Yes! 3 of my best friends are elementary friends!

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24 Jennifer L. May 27, 2013 at 3:59 pm

No, I haven’t kept in touch.

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25 Patricia Wojnar Crowley May 30, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Yep…I keep in touch somewhat!

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