This is the second edition of my new series where I share my review of a book I just read along with a painting I did inspired by the cover. This one is for The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.
I was originally drawn to the idea of this book based on the premise alone. The idea of following a group of creative teenagers as they grow up and try and reconcile their longing for art with the rest of their life. This theme seemed familiar to me and was something that I could find myself in.
The Interestings follows a group of teens who meet at an arts summer camp. It shows us their lives as they grow up, go to college, choose professions, start families, and make second starts later in life. We’re made privy to the big defining moments of their lives and get long peeks into the mundane.
This isn’t a novel with a page-turning plot. In fact, it took me a bit longer to read it than how I typically consume pages one over the other. I don’t think it was because I didn’t like it or that I couldn’t get into it as much as it was just written with a slow pace. It seemed to stylistically match the pace of life. Sometimes it was a rush of big moments, but mostly it was day-to-day, year-to-year.
Even if you’re not an artist, if you’ve never felt the longing and the constant urge to be creative and to be recognized for that creativity, there is still truth in this novel for you. The novel is more about growing up than it is about art. It’s more about holding on to the idealistic views of your youth. It’s more about looking back on being young with an unhealthy lens. When we first meet our friends, when we first make affirmations about our identity and the place we want to take up in the world, when we aren’t influenced by realism. If we’re not careful, we can spend our whole lives trying to recreate what we once had only to realize that we’re missing what is in front of us. It’s trying to honor the memory of your youth and recognize that it will never be the same; it will never feel as it felt then. It can’t be forced and it can’t be fabricated. Youth is a fleeting gift, but to chase after it is to abandon the rest of your life.
My biggest criticisms are of the characters themselves, but I really believe that characters should be flawed and dynamic. I don’t feel like I have to like them to like the point that the author is trying to make.
Wolitzer’s most profound observations about her own characters were made mostly in the last part of the novel.
“All Right,” Dennis said. “So it did. It made you feel special. What so I know-maybe it actually made you special. And specialness- everyone wants it. But Jesus, is it the most essential thing there is? Most people aren’t talented. So what are they supposed to do- kill themselves? Is that what I should do?…”
However, some of them surprised me and gave me depth when they did something unexpected or when the author let us see past the same collection of adjectives she’d been using to describe them.
Unfortunately, the one who lacked depth for me was the main POV character Jules, which ideally would have been the one who I’d like to have the most depth. Jules was described at witty, loyal and funny, but I never saw these characteristics come to life in her.
The only people she was loyal to was her friends and there were times when it felt she was forcing herself to choose unnecessarily. I think it’s perfectly possible to have valuable adult friendships while still being loyal and present to your husband and family. Jules obsession and jealousy with Ash and Ethan was distracting at times and made me really dislike her. At 15 her characteristics were annoying, but plausible, at 30 they were inexcusable and at 50, they were damaging and troublesome.
Overall the book was worth the read and it made valuable points about growing up and reconciling the dreams of your youth with the reality of adulthood.
Did you read it? What did you think? If you’re on Goodreads, connect with me here.