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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What I'm Reading: Best Friends Forever

Recently, I finished Jennifer Weiner's latest, Best Friends Forever. I have read all of Weiner's books and always enjoy them, but I have to agree with this review that BFF is probably one of her best books.

I wrote the Weiner readalike for NoveList and here is a summary of what I think about her works. She writes what seems like Chick-Lit on the surface, but once you read her books, you see there is so much more there. These are stories of women in their 30s, living, loving, and learning. She uses humor and is great at creating memorable and lovable characters.

Best Friends Forever is the perfect example of the smart, funny, and nuanced stories Weiner tells about young women. The story begins as Val, knocks on her former best friend Addie's house, 10 years after high school graduation, with blood on her jacket, asking for help.

Addie and Val, it turns out, were best friends since middle school. Addie was, the chubby shy girl, and Val was the gangly more outgoing one. One summer, Val comes home from vacation and has turned into a beautiful woman. She is now a cheerleader, friends with all of the popular girls, and is garnering lots of interests from boys.

Although Val stays friends with Addie, it is forced and then something happens senior year that severs the girls' bond. In the 10 intervening years, Val has become a TV weather personality and Addie, has moved into her parents old home, lost 200 or so pounds, and has had a successful career as a greeting card artist.

Now the two are thrown together again as they try to find a former classmate who Val may have injured, take a road trip to the Florida Keys, and finally talk through their issues from a decade ago.

Weiner describes this book as, "What if Thelma and Louise didn't have to die?" But it is more than that. Best Friends Forever works because the 2 main characters are more than the stereotypes they could have become in the hands of a lesser writer, especially Addie. The picture Weiner has painted is that of a life, Addie's life. We don't agree with all of her choices, and we definitely think Val needs some help, but we root for them, for their friendship, and for their future. Each woman grows through the events they share in the book, but they also stay true to who they are.

This is a book for women in their 30s without the glitz and glam of designer labels. There is no sleeping around, in fact, romantic relationships figure very peripherally in this novel. And there is absolutely no celebrities. This is what readers who have tired of "chick-lit" have been waiting for.

Readalikes: Readers who like Weiner should check out this post where I outline a 6 authors who are great readalike options. To add to that list, I really think Jonathan Tropper, who writes the male equivalent of Weiner's books is a great choice here. Try How to Talk to a Widower (which I read here). Another writer who tackles the issues of women's lives only from a historical and foreign experience is Lisa See. Peony in Love (which I read here) and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan both focus on the complicated friendships between women.

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