The Interestings has quite a title to live up to, don’t you think? And hype. I scoured the interwebs recently trying to find blog reviews that weren’t positive – and let me just tell you those are few and far between. Most bloggers have already added this to their best of 2013 lists. I so badly wanted to be one of them.
Wolitzer’s world opens on six young teenagers attending a rural Massachusetts summer camp for artistic youth. Jules, Ash, Goodman, Ethan, Jonah, and Cathy call themselves ‘The Interestings’ in hopes that they will grow up to work in their particular artsy-fartsy field of talent and be uber successful. As they grow and age over the next 40 years, the reader follows along and watches each character bumble, fumble, thrive, and, ultimately, survive the trials of their individual fates.
It’s a very simple premise, no doubt, but one that intrigued me for whatever reason. I like long, sweeping stories that take the time to richly develop characters through gorgeous prose. Wolitzer is a fantastic storyteller. She weaves together chronological plot and flashes of memory seamlessly. I was amazed at how flawlessly she fades in and out of various memories without the story feeling disjointed. It felt natural, organic, and full of talent. The characters were well-drawn and filled with petty jealousies, disappointment, bad manners, loyalty, kindness, and a warm sense of honesty I deeply appreciated. At least for the first half of the book.
Something happened in the middle and that something wasn’t magic. After being enthralled with Jules and her friends for nearly 250 pages, the whole thing just sort of fell apart for me. I’m not sure if everything just started feeling repetitive, the character growth evaporated, or if the whole thing just felt too damn long after awhile. I do know that the second half was rushed and less developed. Whereas the first part covered 15 years, the second was left to cover 25 years in the same amount of pages and that didn’t work. For me, at least.
Despite really struggling to finish the book, the last 50 pages made a comeback. I was once again wrapped up in the characters and frantically reading to find out how their lives would end (at least my time spent in their lives, not necessarily THE END). The last paragraphs and the final sentence were poignant and rendered me glad to have finished despite the difficulties.
So tell me: Did you go to summer camp? How many friends from your childhood do you still interact with regularly?