A year or so ago, this book was sitting on top of every “Must Read” and “Most Anticipated” list I saw. I read the summary and saw a few things I like – summer camp stories, old friends reflecting on their childhood. I thought I would really like this book, and, as usual, I ended up wanting to like the book a lot more than I actually did. In the end, all I got from The Interestings was a reminder of why I read very little contemporary adult fiction.
The characters are uninteresting, unlikable. Jules, our hero, is described as incredibly plain, nothing particularly great about her aside from her sense of humor, which we never really witness. Jules is a bitter, whiny person who is constantly jealous of everything her friends have that she doesn’t – from the moment we first meet her until the very last page. Ash, Jules’ best friend, is gorgeous and successful without being very talented, mostly due to her perseverance and her family’s money. She has lofty goals (she wants to be a feminist director) and, as we’re repeatedly reminded, she is absolutely perfect.Ethan, the animator, is described, on nearly every page, as very ugly and very kind. After all these years, even after ending up with Ash, he pines over Jules and what might have been. Jonahis probably the most likable main character, a handsome engineer, son of a folk singer, who gave up music after being used and abused by one of his mother’s friends. He also had a phase where he ran off and joined a cult, but that’s in the past. To the side, we have Goodman, who is very much not a good man – an over-the-top handsome teenager who thinks he can (and actually does) get away with everything. We also haveCathy, an emotional, would-be dancer (if her hips and chest weren’t so big) who is thrown aside after a particularly awful night in probably the first third of the book.
Every interesting storyline is abruptly ended. The best characters constantly take a backseat to Jules and Ash and Ethan and their constant drama over absolutely nothing. The majority of the book has no plot – it’s just these few characters flailing around and trying to figure out their lives. True to life, I suppose, but if I wanted to see someone flailing around trying to figure out their life, I would just look in a mirror.
And yet, despite all my complaints, despite me throwing the book down every few pages and yelling, “THIS IS SO PRETENTIOUS I CAN’T EVEN HANDLE IT,” somehow I kept reading. Somehow I cared about these stupid characters and their stupid manufactured drama. (Did you guys ever think that if you’d just talk it out, maybe you wouldn’t have all these problems? Maybe if you just sat Goodman down and asked him what happened that night, it would be okay? Maybe if Ethan and Ash would just talk about their problems, they wouldn’t feel so isolated? If Jules would just suck it up and realize that she isn’t Ash and isn’t going to have Ash’s awesome life, she might feel better?) I kept reading, little by little, and then in huge chunks, as I came to the end. Somehow, despite everything, I came away feeling more or less indifferent to this book. I would not read it again. I would not recommend it. I will likely not read anything else by Meg Wolitzer. But I enjoyed it, in its own way, and I don’t think it was a waste of my time. I’m just indifferent – and, again, reminded why I don’t read much contemporary adult fiction.
Final rating: ★★★☆☆