Tag Archives: Young adult

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

Pages:  320

Expected Publication Date:  August 22, 2017

Format:  E-book from netgalley

 

 

 

 

This book felt like just what I needed!  Funny, warm, and engaging, Young Jane Young captures what it’s like to be a woman at various stages of life.  It highlights the stereotypes and cultural biases that we have not moved much beyond since the days of the Puritans and the writing of The Scarlet Letter.  It characterizes several generations of women within the same family and their varied responses and attitudes toward similar situations.   It is told from multiple perspectives and there is even a section from Jane Young’s perspective that puts the reader in the driver seat in a choose your own adventure format.

Young Jane Young is a twenty-something female who was born Aviva Grossman.  Aviva Grossman works as a summer intern for Congressman Levin, who also happened to be a neighbor of hers when she was a child.  They begin an affair despite the fact that he is much older, married and her employer.  When they are found out, there is huge backlash against Aviva, but very little towards the Congressman.  Aviva is unable to even get a job, which is incredibly disheartening as she was hoping to go into politics and had been doing an excellent job during the internship.  The internet serves as her “scarlet letter” ruining her social life and any chances for a career.  She feels there is nothing left to do except change her name and move out of state.

I don’t want to give too much away, but this book comes full circle with redemption, fulfillment, forgiveness and understanding all coming into play towards the end after a bit of a rollercoaster ride.  Aviva is able to triumph over her past, first by escaping it, and later, by facing it head on at a time when she is much stronger and more self assured.   This book is a huge slap in the face to the slut shaming that goes on in situations like these!  This writing is powerfully feminist exposing gender inequalities and casual misogyny in today’s society.  The women have their flaws, no doubt, however, they feel incredibly real and relatable.  Even if the reader may not have made the same choices as these women, I think the reader can empathize with their choices through the context of the writing.  The writing is wonderful, fun and enjoyable.  This is a book out to prove a bit point, but does so with much humor and warmth along the way.  I highly recommend this book to all women, young and old.  It would make an excellent book club book, as there is so much to discuss as well as cheer for!

 

Monica Lewinsky & Bill Clinton, the couple who seemed to be the inspiration for this novel

 

 

Monica Lewinsky, from NBC, where she discusses “the culture of humiliation”

 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Compare and contrast Aviva Grossman to Hester from The Scarlet Letter.  In what ways has society and gender bias changed since the writing of that book in 1850  to present day?  How, in effect, does the internet become Aviva’s scarlet letter?
  2. Discuss the fallout of the affair between Aviva and Congressman Levin.    What consequences do each face?
  3. Why do you think Embeth stays by her husband?  Why do you think so many wives in politics stand by their husbands after public outing of affairs?
  4. Compare and contrast the situation of Aviva Grossman and Monica Lewinsky.
  5. Rachel’s husband was cheating on her throughout her marriage.  Why did she put up with it for so long?  Do you think this had an effect on Aviva in her decision to carry on with an affair with the Congressman?
  6. Embeth appears ready to die and even hopeful for it.  She compares her predicament to being a victim of human trafficking at one point.  Do you feel that this is a fair comparison?  Why or why not?
  7. Why do you think that Embeth was never interested in becoming friends with Rachel, when clearly Rachel felt that she had tried?
  8. Why do you think Roz puts her husband’s version of the story (that Rachel kissed him) above Rachel’s version?  Do you think their friendship is mendable?
  9. Do you think Jorge is the father of Jane’s daughter?  Do you think they will ever tell him?
  10. What do you think Wes West’s wife’s secret is?  Why do you think Wes West is such a bully?
  11. Discuss the figure and beliefs of Mrs. Morgan.  How is she pivotal in turning Jane’s life around?
  12. Discuss the meaning of the title.  By the end of the novel, when Jane Young is running for mayor, do you think that Mrs. Morgan would still refer to her as Young Jane Young?  How has she changed or matured?
  13. Did you enjoy the choose your own adventure component to this book?  What do you think it added?
  14. There are so many examples of casual misogyny within this book, such as “douchebag,” and “old wives tales.”  Which other ones can you name from this book and from life?
  15. Aviva and her professor discuss the meaning of feminism.  What is your definition of feminism?

 

Kirkus Review of Young Jane Young

Monica Lewinsky’s TED talk

Gabrielle Zevin’s website

Review by Bookspoils, a fellow book blogger

My Sunshine Away by M. O. Walsh ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

 

22367526

 

 

Pages:  306

Published:  February 10, 2015

Awards:  An NPR best book of the year, New York Times best-seller

Format:  E-book

 

 

My Sunshine Away is a coming-of-age mystery novel set in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The narrator is a young boy who falls in love with his friend and neighbor, Lindy.  His love is persistent throughout the transformations of identity that Lindy undergoes in the aftermath of being raped.  This young boy is also dealing with other big issues:  divorced parents, a neglectful father, and the death of a sibling.

The mystery in this novel is who the rapist might be.  There are several unsettling characters in the book that are suspects.  The narrator himself briefly appears to be a suspect.  He is hiding something, but we do not know what.

I enjoyed the lush descriptions of Baton Rouge immensely:  the culture, the food, the people, the nature, the impact of Andrew and Katrina.  Some of the chapters that were about Baton Rouge could have been stand-alone short stories, and very good ones at that.

The book is written from adulthood, reminiscing back about 20 years, but he also spends time speaking of his current life:  adulthood, marriage, his wife’s pregnancy.  These adulthood chapters were less interesting to me.  I felt that there was a comparative lack of passion, or maybe even disingenuousness,  when the narrator was describing his adult life.   Yes, it was nice to have the complete picture of how everyone turned out, but it felt  unnecessary to me.   The narrator also inserts certain facts about children who have been raped, children who have grown up with divorced parents or suffered the death of a sibling, as well as facts about the foster system.  The facts felt instructive, yet were interesting.

I give this book:  3-stars , well 3.5.   It was well written, had great character development and dealt with some weighty coming-of-age issues.  Saying that, I did not feel deeply affected by it.  I would definitely categorize it more as a young adult read, and I think for the younger reader, it would be more pertinent and affective, more of a 4 star read.  I also think reading about a girl’s experience of rape, from the perspective of a prepubescent boy who is “in love” with her, only added distance to the horror of it.  Perhaps, to the male reader, it would be more meaningful.

images

crawfish-07

 

Baton Rouge, LA

 

 

 

 

crawfish & corn

 

 

“All I saw were drunk and sweaty people, sucking the heads off insects,”  says the narrator’s friend from Michigan

Spanish_moss_at_the_Mcbryde_Garden_in_hawaii

 

 

Spanish moss (with lice)

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  It seemed like there were no consequences to Bo Kearne’s behavior.  How do you think this affected him?
  2. Did you ever think while reading the novel that it could have been the narrator who committed the crime?  Why or why not?
  3. What were your thoughts about Lindy’s parents approaching potential suspects with the police?
  4. How does Lindy change after the rape?  Is it immediate or is there a delay?  How do you feel the “outing” of the rape affects her?
  5. What is the effect of group therapy on Lindy?
  6. Jason Landry is the “anchor” of his foster family.  What are your thoughts on foster families doing this with one of their foster children?
  7. What do you perceive as the abuses suffered by Jason and the other Landry foster children?
  8. How do you perceive the relationship of the narrator and his father?  What do you make of the father and his 18 year old girlfriend?
  9. Why do you think the narrator remains un-named throughout the novel?
  10. How does Lindy manifest the “rape trauma syndrome?
  11. Is the narrator really listening to Lindy during all those late night conversations?  Why or why not?  What is he hoping to hear from her?  How is he hoping the conversation will go?
  12. What do you make of Uncle Barry’s role in the novel?  Why do you think the narrator’s mother wanted to minimize his influence?
  13. What do you make of the narrator’s choice of wife?
  14. How does the narrator hope to raise his son?  What kind of father does he plan to be?
  15. How would you explain the meaning of the title?

 

M. O. Walsh’s website

Interview with M. O. Walsh published in Huffington Post

Disscussion Questions by Penguin Books