The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner (2012)
The premise was pretty good, the beginning was promising, and I liked the ending. But I struggled with what came between. I'm not the best person to judge a book that revolves around Hollywood and tv since I view them both pretty unfavorably (though I share Ruth's love of The Golden Girls), but I found the shallow, spoiled characters and bad behavior all rather boring and annoying. Of course people in Hollywood are shallow, of course the network wants a skinny actress, of course you don't have complete creative control over your show. I know that and I haven't even visited that city; you'd think Ruth would know it after working there for several years.
Being unbelievably naive is only one of the ways in which Ruth was difficult to like. I quickly tired of her pathetic mooning around Little Dave who also wasn't appealing at all. For the longest time I didn't even think he was the real love interest because he was portrayed in such an unflattering way; I thought he was there temporarily until Ruth met her real love interest. In fact, I think the only character I liked was Ruth's grandmother.
Poor editing was also a problem, the inconsistencies proving distracting. In one scene, Ruth's outfit for a party is described as pants and a top, but later in the evening she is wearing a dress. Similarly, a character described as being in her early 40s got pregnant when she was 39 but her son is already 8 years old. I'm not the most observant reader when it comes to details, so if I'm noticing these things, there's a problem.
Occasionally, I spotted traces of the Jennifer Weiner I know and love. This description of Ruth's grandmother made me smile: "She shrugged, muttering to herself, and went to her bedroom to begin moving clothing from one plastic bag to another, a trick that served as the Jewish woman-of-a-certain age's version of meditation."
But these moments were too few and far-between. Jennifer Weiner can do better than this. I know this because I've read every single one of her books, and every single one is better than this. I expected more, especially since the novel is based on Weiner's own experience in Hollywood making her short-lived sitcom "State of Georgia." What I've liked most about Weiner's writing is how consistently good it is, so I'm especially disappointed in this half-hearted effort.