This may be a crime, but I had never read anything by Jennifer Weiner before I came across The Next Best Thing, which is Weiner’s 10th book. Having worked in local television news production, I was immediately drawn the main character Ruth Saunders, a writer/producer in Hollywood, and this book quickly sucked me in with the witty writing and quick pace of the plot.
A quick recap of the book: Ruth and her grandmother moved across country to Hollywood as Ruth tries to break into show business. After years of working her way up the ladder and not getting too far, Ruth gets her big chance when a show based on her life with her grandmother gets picked up by a network, and then, Ruth learns the hard lesson of Hollywood compromises. With each small compromise, Ruth’s show moves further and further away from what she originally envisioned. Throw in a complicated romantic life and a healthy dose of humor, and Ruth stumbles through obstacles to find her own path in the superficial, political world of Hollywood.
While I was getting over the doldrums of a long Chicago winter, this book was a refreshing escape. Ruth is an ultimate underdog. She lives with visible scars from a childhood car accident, and in Hollywood, this immediately puts her as an outsider in a culture that values beauty above almost everything else. Ruth’s bad luck in love is also incredibly relatable as she is rejected one guy, broken up with by another and pines away for a third. Also, the making of a television show is an interesting backdrop to place characters, and it is probably a world that is foreign to most readers. The supporting cast of characters is pretty solid. I loved the Daves and their casual banter, and Ruth’s grandmother is perfectly written. She is super stylish, a professional extra and Ruth’s biggest supporter. Going into the summer, this is a perfect pool book (or beach book if you are lucky enough to be by a coast).
Next up: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern