Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fresh Jennifer Weiner -- just in time for spring

Last week, I went to the library near work on my lunch hour. My main goal was to settle my fines, but of course I looked around. The place is about the size of my living room, so it's a good half-hour break destination. I only got three books, but one of them was the new Jennifer Weiner, Best Friends Forever. I did that one first, since it was a 7-day book, and got it back only one day (or 12 hours, as I prefer to view it) late.

As I've said before, I like Jennifer Weiner a great deal. Like Lisa Jewell, her books are not always terribly deep. They almost invariably meander towards a happy ending, with the heroine getting her man, solving most of her problems, and shaking off the last droplets from the storm of the book before walking into her new, happy, sunny life.

Best Friends Forever is no exception. The heroine of our novel is 33-year-old Addie Downs. She's such an underdog that it's hard not to root for her. Her life, thus far, has been rather sad and dreary. Picked on through all of high school (because she was fat; it wouldn't be a Weiner novel without a character with weight issues), she lost the closeness of her family early on, with her parents both dying during what should have been her freshman year of college. During high school, she also 'lost' her brother in a sense: he was in a terrible car accident and suffered from brain damage. Although he's able to have some semblance of a life, he's not really a companion for Addie.

But in a way, Addie's most devastating loss, the one she truly never got over, was that of her best friend Valerie. Valerie, in high school, was everything that Addie wasn't. Skinny, pretty, popular, well-liked. During their senior year, they had a terrible falling-out and never spoke again...until the beginning of this novel.

The novel mostly takes place in the past. The present-day plot is rather thin: it involves an accident at the class reunion, the lonely, unhappy cop who investigates it (and you know what his real role in the plot is from literally the moment he appears in the story), and the unlikely, unforeseen reunion of Valerie and Addie after fifteen years and a horrible betrayal. But like Jewell, Weiner's characters are enjoyable, her writing is strong, and she paces her stories well. I enjoyed reading something where the female friendship was the primary focus, too.

If you hate Jennifer Weiner, stay the hell away from this one. It probably won't change your mind, but fans will enjoy it.

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