Saturday, May 31, 2008

Certain Girls

Certain Girls tells the story of Candace Shapiro (who was first introduced in Good in Bed, and who also appeared in her short story collection The Guy Not Taken, which I reviewed HERE). Cannie is a work-at-home writer who now uses a pseudonym after suffering fall-out after the success of her semi-autobiographical first novel.

Her daughter Joy is now thirteen years old. Cannie has always been overprotective and overinvolved in her life, which is about the worst thing that a mother can do from the perspective of a young teen. Reading Joy's thoughts about her mother from her point of view (each chapter alternates using her or Cannie as the narrator) made me think about my relationship with my daughter. Like Candace, I remembered the adolescent feelings I had concerning my own mother. Amanda is almost ten, and I've already glimpsed her desire to exercise more responsibility for herself, and her conflicting desires to be close to her parents and to maintain her own boundaries.

Using both protagonists in this story as narrators adds dimension to the typical coming-of-age story, centering around the Jewish ceremony in which a woman is recognized as a woman, the Bat Mitzvah. We see Joy testing her wings in assuming the new responsibility that is granted to her from a religious perspective.

Candace herself morphs, as we are apt to do as women. She's a forty-two year old whose only child is aging out of needing the full-time childcare and protection that she has loved giving her in her early years. She might be forced into a different role (although if her husband gets her way and they have another baby, that will change).

This novel is still told with the self-deprecating humor at which Ms. Weiner is so proficient, but this one goes a level deeper. Perhaps because as I mentioned, the subject matter hits a bit close to home, this is one of those books that left me in a bit of a trance when I finished reading it. I had literally cried while reading the last forty pages.

The publishers have promoted this as a book for mothers and daughters to share. In fact, there are sets of questions for teens to read and discuss and a separate one for adults, both of which are accompanied by an interview with the author. I suppose if your high school daughter is already reading mainstream adult fiction with profanity and some mature dialogue about sex then it might be a great idea (as Jennifer Weiner says she was and as I myself was in high school). One of the themes of the book is Joy's embarrassment over the explicit nature of her mom's first novel, and there are excerpts of it in the book.


Org Junkie said...

I saw this book at the library. Do you recommend reading the first one in the series first or does it matter? I'm asking because my library doesn't have the first one.

heather said...

You know, I haven't read Jennifer Weiner yet, although my sister really loves her books. I'll have to try one out.

Tanya said...

I just finished this and really enjoyed it too.

Amy said...

I loved Cannie in Good In Bed and absolutely LOVE Jen Weiner's writing. I bought this book awhile before I went to Disney and thought I'd read it on the plane, but it is still just sitting there. I'm going to try and read it soon though, thanks for the review.

alisonwonderland said...

Jennifer Weiner is an author i haven't yet read but whom i've considered several times. this book sounds really good. thanks for the review!