Date Read: August 28, 2018
Everyone loves a good comeback story, and the beauty of Gabrille Zevin’s Young Jane Young is that it judiciously addresses the indiscretion that inevitably precedes said comeback. As an intern in a southern-Florida congressman’s office, college student Aviva Grossman finds herself entwined in a torrid affair with none other than the congressman himself. After the scandal breaks, Aviva quickly realizes the magnitude of her mistakes and the significant and seemingly unending consequences she’ll face. How can she recover when she can’t find a job anywhere, let alone in politics as she had always dreamed?
Seeing no alternative, Aviva changes her name, moves, and pursues a career for which she shows great talent, but was a far cry from the hopes of her youth. Jane Young, event planner, has been living peacefully in a small town in Maine since “Aviva-gate” finally started to die down, and she has created a new life with her daughter where she is safe from the ghosts of her past. Safe, that is, until she decides to get back on the horse: she is running for mayor of Allison Springs, Maine.
As I mentioned before, Young Jane Young isn’t just good because it’s a story of redemption. While that is a prominent and commendable theme throughout the novel, Zevin’s writing truly excels in its honest confrontation of mistakes, and making a right, wrong, or easy choice. These are not easy topics to address, and Zevin has created a scenario where we test our own integrity by formatting the fourth part of the novel in the style of a “Choose Your Own Adventure”. While we do not actually choose Jane’s adventure, we are presented with the decisions that she herself considered and we watch her progress through her internship, her relationship, and the aftermath.
Yet another noteworthy quality throughout the tale is the immense growth of character we see between Aviva in the thick of the affair and Jane Young, single mother recuperating from her youthful indiscretion. In the first few chapters, I truly almost stopped reading because I was so frustrated with twenty-year-old Aviva’s naivete and indignance while she worked herself farther into drama of her own making. I found her whiny and entitled and I could not sympathize with her. As Zevin details the beginning of the affair with the congressman, Aviva’s initial reactions after its termination, and her attempts to create a new life for herself, I found her becoming a woman really worth admiring. After taking on the moniker of Jane Young and starting over, she reconciles herself with her past. She acknowledges her mistakes while refusing to be shamed, and she accepts the threat of her scandal becoming known in Allison Springs with grace and determination.
Zevin writes with heart and creativity, and Young Jane Young can be found here or at your local library!
Thanks for reading!