The Interestings – Book Review

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Where to begin? The Interestings took me a little while to get through, but I enjoyed it.  While, it wasn’t a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat or even demands that you pick it up every day, I was okay with that. It’s not that it was dull by any means, either.  How do I explain it… the book takes place over 30-40 years and the story sort of reflects that.  Life isn’t always exciting, but it meanders along with ups and downs and twists and turns here and there, and the flow of the book definitely imitated that.  It was fitting and also satisfying.

The story follows the lives of 6 teens who meet at a summer camp for the artistically inclined and manage to maintain their friendship through adulthood. While there isn’t much of a plot, I found myself caught up in the characters and wondering where life would take them. I have nothing in common with any of the characters, but appreciated the way in which Wolitzer makes them feel realistic. The main character Jules could be a tad exasperating at times with her constant envy of her friends who have lots of money and whose artistic careers flourished while she wallows. It was hard to get past her whining, at times, but even she managed to have a few redeeming qualities.

One of the aspects I really enjoyed is that the story starts out in the mid-1970s in New York and Wolitzer does such a great job using words to place you in that time and place. Wolitzer’s writing is descriptive, sometimes poetic, and sometimes harsh. I had no trouble picturing the characters and places in my mind and despite the pacing, found myself picking it up day after day and slowly devouring it.  I wanted to know what happened to the characters and just when I’d think I’d be disappointed because of how other writers have handled situations in other stories, I’d be pleasantly surprised that Wolitzer chose not to do the same. I feel like the way she handled her character’s emotions reflected better on how people in the real world might react… people who aren’t actually all that interesting.

I found myself thoughtful throughout the book and sometimes nostalgic for my own childhood, much like Jules.  Despite passing time, all of the characters reflect often on their experience at camp and one takeaway is just how important it is to stop looking backwards and look ahead.  Nostalgia is just one of many themes along with friendship, love, jealousy, sexuality, art, deceit, and mental illness, all of which Wolitzer writes well. This may have been my first of her novels, but it will not be last.

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