The Next Best Thing
Do you have a favorite author you love so much that you don't even read the description, you just automatically know you'll love the book? Thus is my love for Jennifer Weiner. My favorites include Good Night Nobody, In Her Shoes & Little Earthquakes.
She's like an old friend. Whenever I hear of a new book coming out, it's like an old friend is coming to visit and I anxiously await her arrival, watching out the window while tapping my foot and checking my watch.
So naturally I dove right in to The Next Best Thing. I read it in less than a week. In fact, I read most of it during a 10 hour round trip over the weekend and tweeted a pic to Jennifer Weiner, praying for a retweet. To no avail, but I know she's super busy out there being her girlpower self...
Who: Ruth, her Grandma and a slew of other rainbow hued. Some dark brooding indigos, people of the tv "network" and other sparkly yellows like Dave. There is so much more to Ruth than just her ambitions. She survived a car crash that killed both parents when she was just a toddler. She is left with several scars on her face and body, so naturally her self esteem and image comes to you totally broken and confused. I think she's such an interesting character because she's a ball of her own contradictions. She knows she is loved by her grandma but at the same time, she hides behinds hats and hair because of her scars. Throughout the book she wants to burst out and then her insecurities instantly grab ahold of her and she shrinks back underneath her hat. It made me sad. She is one of the most endearing characters I have ever met.
Her grandmother is a great literary character. Here's a smidget about her:
She is "a dirty joke spouting senior who was something new, a lady of a certain age with heart and a history and a genuine sense of humor and a sex driver that wasn't a punch line, a quirky woman with demons to conquer and wisdom to share."
What: Ruth is a 23 year old whose dream is to be a screenwriter for television. She's been writing scripts in her head since she was young. She moves (70 year old AWESOME grandma in tow) to Hollywood to pursue her dream. What follows after her show is green lighted is a play-by-play of what I imagine happens in Hollywood all the time. People taking dreams in and spitting them out like an automatic revolving door.
You see the changes being made to her television script before she does, probably because she's so innocently charismatic and doesn't believe manipulation and mind games really exist in a professional world. She keeps believing in it though and you will stay proud of her, even when you think you might be mad at her.
There are a couple scenes in the book that caused me to gasp. Not because they were huge issues or climactic plot turners but because they were so....me. I've been that girl. The one so insecure she went to embarrassing levels to get attention. And the shame that follows...*shudders.*
Here's a smidget. It's Ruth describing The Golden Girls and why that show was a influence in her yearning to write a television show:
“The weather was always warm and the skies were always sunny, and no crisis could not be managed in twenty-two minutes plus two commercial breaks. In that happy land, not everyone was beautiful, or young, or perfect. Not everyone had romantic love. But everyone had friends, a family they’d chosen. It was that love that sustained them, and that love, I imagined, could sustain me, too.”
When: Present day. I love the juicy details and gossip nuggets about the Hollywood characters because you just know they are based on real people! I always love non-fiction tid bits mixed in with my non-fiction.
Why: Why did Jennifer Weiner write this book? I read an interview with her about how this is actually based on some really situations. The author was actually a part of a show on ABC Family. If the two stories are intertwined and J-Dub (I envision us someday meeting, becoming besties and giving eachother nick names) actually had a similar situation happen to her, I would want to write about it too.
Ruth's script is about a girl just like her. Daphne has insecurities and dreams. And what happens when Daphne's character, a normal, healthy size 10, is lypo'd down to a size 0 because the actress cast to play her gets a weight loss deal she can't refuse? Do the people at the network go to bat for Ruth and let her fight to keep the integrity and message of the script in tact? Of course not. Skinny is as skinny does. Basically, what the tv network does for Ruth's script is the exact OPISITE of a Kelly London and Clinton Kelly special.
I can't really give this book justice. I know if I write too much I will lose your attention. So I will just say this. J Dub tackles some big emotions in the book (love, loss, ambition, insecurity, to name a few) and it's spun in a creative flow that is so easy to follow I might as well be watching a chick flick on t.v. at home.