Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Next Best Thing,by Jennifer Weiner

I hate to say it, but as far as Jennifer Weiner’s books are concerned, The Next Best Thing was a colossal disappointment.  I fell in love with Weiner’s wit and refreshingly honest sense of humor.  She was brash and ballsy, and she called it like she saw it.  Her characters were charming, devilish, and likeable.  I anxiously anticipated the release of The Next Best Thing, and I had my name on the request list at the library before the book was even available.  When I finally got my copy I went ahead and started reading it, even though it meant I’d have to return some other books that I hadn’t gotten around to reading because the due date was fast approaching. 

Maybe my standards have been set to high, but this book just felt all wrong.  It seemed rushed, thrown together, and not at all like what I’d come to expect from Weiner.  Sure there were some good scenes but there were some other kind of raunchy (and in my opinion unnecessary) scenes as well.  I’m no prude, but the sex we did see in the book seemed either dirty or smutty or just plain weird. 

Usually I fall in love with Weiner’s heroines, but this time I found myself liking other supporting characters like Grandma and Big Dave better than I liked Ruthie.  And while I didn’t find the jumping back and forth in time to be hugely difficult to follow, as some other reviewers have pointed out, I found that I liked the back more than the forth.  I couldn’t seem to help but wish that the entire book would have been about Ruthie’s childhood instead of her adult life because it was more interesting and compelling. 

There were a few moments of greatness where I sensed that the Weiner I know and love was still present, but overall the book was a flop.  In hindsight I found that she had dealt with some personal letdowns within the realm of Hollywood that may have helped to taint this latest project.  I hope that if The Next Best Thing was her way of purging her own painful Hollywood experience that she has managed to expel it completely, so she can come back in her next book, stronger than ever.

I’m not ready to write Weiner off yet, no one is perfect, and I can’t expect anyone, even famous authors, to always bat 100.  I’m still going to read her next book and give her another shot at wowing me like she did in all of her previous novels then we’ll just pretend this book never happened.  J

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