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Next Best Thing (Review)

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The Next Best Thing
Jennifer Weiner, 2012
400 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
August, 2012

Author Jennifer Weiner is a 21st-century Jane Austen, who uses her sharp eye and sharper wit to skewer modern-day convention. In this book Weiner turns her sights on Hollywood...and conjures up a delicious satire.

Ruthie Saunders, Weiner's smart, funny heroine, was raised watching The Golden Girls—where "the skies are always sunny...not everyone is beautiful...and love sustains you." So what's a good girl to do but live life as a TV sitcom? Or better yet, write one.

Describing her own voice as "funny-mean and observant," Ruthie takes off for Hollywood to gain experience...and write her own sitcom. Filled with idealism and good intentions, she intends her show to be like The Golden Girls...

Where it wasn't about being thin or young or beautiful, but about who you were underneath your skin, and whether or not you were loyal, funny, smart, compassionate, a good friend.

Her finished script, The Next Best Thing, gets tapped for production, so she's off to create her dream show...and maybe even live it. Oh, silly girl. Gary, her skeptical, down-to-earth boyfriend attempts to warn her:

They care about making money. It's not about art...or telling the best stories, or trying to make the world a better place. It's just selling stuff.

Her boss and co-producer, Dave, warns her, too, at a dinner celebration: "Enjoy this [moment]. It's as good as it gets." And, finally, we see the behind-the-scenes Hollywood—the empty-brained actors, directors who cast women based on whether they'd like to sleep with them, exectives who insist they're great writers. It's awful...and hilarious...a roller-coaster of a ride for Ruthie.

I love Jennifer Weiner's writing: it manages to be funny and poignant all at once. She lays out all of our flaws, weaknesses, and our goodness, before our eyes. We see ourselves...and laugh out loud. Read this terrific book! It's about Hollywood and about us.

See our Reading Guide for The Next Best Thing.

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