BOOK REVIEW: Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner
I couldn't decide whether to re-read Jennifer Weiner's debut novel, Good in Bed, before reading the long-awaited follow-up, Certain Girls, but in the end I chose not to. I thought I could remember enough about Good in Bed that it wouldn't be necessary and, at the same time, I wanted to see if Certain Girls could stand on its own.
Well, it turns out that I didn't remember Good In Bed as well as I thought, but Certain Girls certainly stands on its own. I think (but, you know, I can't be sure) that it's pretty different to Good In Bed (in tone rather than content, I mean - I expected it to be different in content!), but that's to be expected since it takes place around ten years after the end of Good In Bed.
Cannie Shapiro's daughter Joy - now 12 - is preparing for her bat mitzvah and struggling with the typical high school popularity issues: the popular girl is suddenly taking notice of her and she doesn't know why. Plus her grades are slipping because, unbeknownst to her mother, she's been taking her hearing aids out at school in order to try and fit in.
Meanwhile, Cannie - whose first novel was so enormously successful it put her off writing another - is writing a science fiction series under a pseudonym. Apart from her stifling obsession with Joy's safety and security (which, while understandable from Cannie's point of view, is not appreciated by Joy), everything in her life is fine.
But then her husband, Peter, drops a bombshell - he wants another baby. Following the trauma of Joy's birth, Cannie's not able to have more children, so it means finding a surrogate.
For probably the first third of this book, I kept thinking, "This isn't what I was expecting at all. This doesn't sound like Jennifer Weiner" but then I decided to forget about expectations and enjoy the book. And I really, really did. It's so beautifully and intimately written that I often forgot where I was when I was reading. It's not the kind of book that I felt compelled to take the day off to finish (which is what I was tempted to do with In Her Shoes), it's more of a grower, stealthily brilliant. And, in that, it reminded me a lot of Elizabeth Berg (who I also love but wouldn't ever have compared with Jennifer Weiner).
The characters never felt like characters and the plot didn't feel like a plot. It all felt real. I know it's a book that's going to stay with me for a long time.
Like this? Try Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Look out for a fabulous interview with Jennifer Weiner later this week!