I love a book that leaves me with things to continue thinking about after I’m done reading it and Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin is a novel that left me with so many things to think about. Young Jane Young is the story of a young woman, Aviva, who has an affair with her married boss, a popular congressman. The story shows that in the digital age, our mistakes and our past are never truly in the past. The news of the affair spreads quickly and while the congressman isn’t spoken of often or blamed, Aviva is. She becomes a late-night talk show punch line, she is talked about everywhere, she can’t get a job because she has a tainted character and she can’t go anywhere because she is so recognizable. The story also shows how Aviva overcomes and deals with these consequences.
The story is told through five different character perspectives and formats. For example, we first hear from Aviva’s mother, Rachel. These chapters are told in a stream of consciousness style. We begin to figure out what happens to Rachel’s daughter Aviva, completely from what her mother knows and does. We also get some background of what the family that Aviva comes from and relationships there are like. Aviva’s chapters are told as a Choose Your Own Adventure format. We see the choices Aviva could have made and the choices she did make and how they affected her life. I liked how each perspective was told in a different format and thought it was a good way to make each character distinct. I thought the different formats fit the characters well. The perspective of Aviva’s teenage daughter was my least favorite because the format and perspective was done so well. The character drove me crazy. I often struggle with YA because of all the teenage angst and Aviva’s daughter though only 13 had so much teenage angst!
This book was so much more than just the story of a scandal. It left me thinking about the effect judging others has on people. I have thought about marriage and relationships and how sometimes we give up to easy, and what we put up with and what we do for love. I have wondered if people’s pasts really matter. Is it at all beneficial to hang on to people’s past? To their mistakes? Is it our right to know the mistakes of others? What if those others are those who are leading or serving us as in the case of the congressman? I have also thought about the effects the internet has on our lives and the longevity of things about us on the internet. To get away from her scandal Aviva eventually moves far away to a small town and changes her name. 13 years after the scandal Aviva, now Jane, is urged to run for public office herself. But because our lives are always on the internet her past is soon discovered. What will she do this time to escape her mistake?
At the end of the novel, Gabrielle Zevin quotes a line from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. “Humans are not born forever on the day their mothers have them; life necessitates giving birth to themselves over and over again.” Reading Young Jane Young has given me the opportunity to think about how well I allow others to give birth to themselves over and over again.