Well, Isn't That SPEEECIAL?

I have a soft spot for books that have a wide scope. We experience time in an evenly-measured pace, so I appreciate the stories that zoom around in their characters' lives, through childhood, maturity, and old age. So Meg Wolitzer's 2013 novel The Interestings had bonus points going for it, even before I cracked the spine. The Interestings centers on a clique that forms at a summer camp devoted to appreciation of the arts and developing the campers' talents. As the kids age, their lives diverge, and their friendships are tested in dozens of ways, from wealth disparity to sickness to sexual awkwardness. As campers, they're so secure in their own awesomeness that they give themselves the eponymous name, but the dreams and identities they hold as teenagers soften into more realistic adult versions.

All of that is great, and Wolitzer does an admirable job of writing a realistic tone for her characters, no matter what age they are. The problem is...the meat is tasty, but it's covered by too much fat. You know those movies that you would have enjoyed more if they were half an hour shorter? This is the book version of that. Once the characters reach adulthood, the litany of problems and issues they confront goes on for far too long. It's like looking at pictures of sunsets from someone's vacation. One is pretty. Ten is tedious.

The core themes of the book are still pretty enjoyable. And I appreciate the message that people aren't as unique and special as they think (and even if they are, that's not always a positive). The point is, no matter how intriguing or dull your relationships or your daily challenges are, life itself is truly interesting. And although the book takes far too long to make that point, it's worth spending a chunk of your interesting life reading it.

The Interestings: B-


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