MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Meg Wolitzer sold her first novel as a college senior. In the following three decades, she's published 10 more books. This week marks the release of her latest novel, and reviewer Lizzie Skurnick says it's her best yet. Called "The Interestings," it's about what happens when that childhood sense of being special follows us into adulthood.
LIZZIE SKURNICK: Six kids meet at an artsy summer camp. It's the '70s in rural Massachusetts. There's Ash, the beauty; her brother Goodman, the heartthrob; Ethan, the lumpy, clever boy who uses humor as a shield. And then there's our main character, Jules, who can't quite figure out exactly what these new friends see in her. The title of the book comes from this clique of teenagers. They ironically call themselves the Interestings. But you can tell that they believe it. Success seems inevitable, and some of them really do make it big.
Ethan ends up the creator of a popular TV show, and Ash ends up his wife. But for the rest of the group, life has other plans. One becomes a fugitive, one an outcast. And poor Jules fails as an actress. She marries a nice guy named Dennis, an ultrasound technician, and watches from her walk-up as her friends' fortunes rise. OK. So that's the plot. But Wolitzer has a special kind of talent. If she decided to write a phone book, I'd pre-order it on Amazon.
Most writers use exposition to get from one event to another. But in "The Interestings," these vivid landscapes are where we see the gradations of character and thought, which is much more interesting than the novel's destination. There's lots of books where people lose each other, but the real mystery here is what's kept this group together and what it costs them all in terms of success, love, family and, especially for Jules, money. It's humbling, and it's not pretty. But it is, in this book, as teenagers usually are not, interesting.
BLOCK: Meg Wolitzer's new book is titled "The Interestings." It's out this week. Our reviewer Lizzie Skurnick edits and publishes classic young adult novels. You'll find other reading recommendations at nprbooks.org. For news about books throughout the day, be sure to like NPR Books on Facebook. And you can also get book news on Twitter. That's @nprbooks. And we are on Twitter too. I'm @NPRmelissablock.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm @nprAudie.