Young Jane Young


“It’s brilliant and hilarious, and it makes you wince in recognition — for the double-standard that relegates scandalized women to a life of shame even as their married lovers continue with their careers (and often their marriages), for the insatiable appetite we have for every last detail, for the ease and speed with which we stop seeing people as multilayered humans. It’s the sort of book that invites us to examine our long-held beliefs and perceptions. It asks us to imagine, for a moment, another perspective and delivers us the storyline to do so. It hands us characters who are at odds with one another and peels back their layers to reveal the thing they have in common. It has a heart. And a spine. It’s exactly, I would argue, what we need more of right now.” —Heidi Stevens, Chicago Tribune

Washington Post 50 Notable Works of Fiction for 2017, Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction of 2017, Chicago Public Library Best Books of 2017, an Indie Next Pick, People Magazine Book of the Week, Library Reads #1 Pick for August, Finalist for the Southern Book Prize, Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction

Listen to an interview about Young Jane Young with Lulu Garcia-Navarro on NPR Weekend Edition.

Watch a humorous video about Young Jane Young with Ron Charles of the Washington Post.

Available in your favorite independent bookstore or wherever books are sold.

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Questions for Discussion

1. In the author’s note, we learn that bubbe meise means a “grandmother’s tale” or an “old wives’ tale.” How does this inform your understanding of the first section of the novel?

2. Were Rachel’s attempts to end the affair helpful? If you were Aviva’s mother, what would you have done?

3. The book is divided into five sections: Rachel, Jane, Ruby, Embeth, and Aviva. Which character could you relate to the most, and why? In what ways are “Jane” and “Aviva” separate characters?

4. When Rachel tells Embeth about the affair, why do you think Embeth decides not to do anything about it?

5. When two people have a workplace romance, how is it affected by a power imbalance in their positions?

6. What did you make of Franny’s relationship to Jane? Why is Franny so quick to bond with her?

7. What did you make of Ruby’s decision to tell the newspaper who Aviva Grossman is?

8. A parrot appears in Embeth’s section of the novel, and seems to be visible only to her. What do you think El Mete represents?

9. Why didn’t Embeth ever run for office? Compare Embeth and Aviva.

10. Why do you think Embeth protects her husband the congressman from meeting Ruby?

11. Why do you think the author decides to take us back to the beginning of Aviva’s internship in the final section of the book? How does your knowledge of Aviva’s choices affect your empathy for her?

12. Women are 51% of the population, and yet they occupy fewer than 20% of the seats in the House and Senate. Why do you think that is? Is it a matter of desire, or is it borne out of something larger in our society?

13. At the end of the novel, Aviva is asked how she survived the scandal, and she says, “I refused to be shamed” (294). What is the difference between feeling shame and being shamed?

14. Imagine Aviva’s story if it were thirty years-ago, a time before the internet was commonly used. How would Aviva’s story be different if there wasn’t Google?

15. Why do you think Jane decides to run for office even though it means exposing her past and revealing her identity? Do you think Jane wins the election?

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