Young Jane Young has an incredible cover. A woman is an electric pink silhouette behind the word “JANE” in neon yellow. Surrounding her is a sea of navy blue bodies. With a cover as striking this, it was impossible for me not to pick up Gabrielle Zevin’s ninth novel. Especially after a glowing review from an employee at my favorite independent bookstore, The Golden Notebook, I decided to buy it.
The novel is split into five parts, each narrated by a different character. Within the parts, there are two major stories, one of an intern’s affair with her charismatic congressman boss, and one of a wedding planner and her daughter. The stories are supposed to seem unrelated, I think, but it is easy enough to connect the dots between the two once you start read. Eventually, as predicted, the stories intersect and everything is dramatically revealed when an impulsive, irreversible decision is made.
Of course, the plot is not what makes Young Jane Young great. We’ve all heard the story of a young woman sleeping with her employer and know what happens when all is revealed. Relentless, life-altering slut shaming is not new- in fiction or in reality. But, that’s not the point of Young Jane Young.
“They didn’t put a scarlet letter on her chest, but they didn’t need to. That’s what the Internet is for.”
Zevin tells the classic story from every perspective: the intern, her mother, the congressman’s wife, and a young girl, discovering the scandal years later. By choosing to omit what seems like an essential a male perspective, the congressman, Zevin makes a strong feminist statement. Male characters in Young Jane Young are either antagonists or love interests, as many female characters have been in countless other novels. While the men serve to further character development in every woman, they are, at the end of the day, unnecessary.
Young Jane Young chronicles five women’s relationship with sex, love, and relationships, but what separates it from other novels doing the same thing is the complete focus on the women in those situations. In Zevin’s world, the women’s story is the only one that matters. If you’re looking for a smart, feminist beach read, you’ve found it. Enjoy Young Jane Young.