Excerpt from The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Interestings

by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2013, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2014, 544 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

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During that first hour, books were discussed, mostly ones written by spiky and disaffected European writers. "Günter Grass is basically God," said Goodman Wolf, and the two other boys agreed. Julie had never actually heard of Günter Grass, but she wasn't going to let on. If anyone asked, she would insist that she too loved Günter Grass, although, she would add as protection, "I haven't read as much of him as I would like."

"I think Anaïs Nin is God," Ash said.

"How can you say that?" said her brother. "She is so full of pretentious, girly shit. I have no idea why people read Anaïs Nin. She's the worst writer who ever lived."

"Anaïs Nin and Günter Grass both have umlauts," remarked Ethan.

"Maybe that's the key to their success. I'm going to get one for myself."

"What were you doing reading Anaïs Nin, Goodman?" asked Cathy.

"Ash made me," he said. "And I do everything my sister says."

"Maybe Ash is God," said Jonah with a beautiful smile.

A couple of them said that they had brought paperbacks with them to camp that they needed to read for school; their summer reading lists were all similar, featuring those sturdy, adolescent- friendly writers John Knowles and William Golding. "If you think about it," said Ethan, "Lord of the Flies is basically the opposite of Spirit-in-the-Woods. One's a total nightmare, and the other's utopia."

"Yeah, they're diametrically opposed," said Jonah, for this was another phrase he liked to use. Although, Julie thought, if someone said "diametrically," could "opposed" be far behind?

Parents got discussed too, though mostly with tolerant disdain. "I just don't think that my mother and father's separation is any of my business," said Ethan Figman, taking a wet suck on his joint. "They are completely wrapped up in themselves, which means they basically pay no attention to me, and I couldn't be happier. Though it would be nice if my father kept some food in the refrigerator once in a while. Feeding your child—I hear it's the latest fad."

"Come to the Labyrinth," said Ash. "You'll be totally taken care of." Julie had no idea what the Labyrinth was—an exclusive private club in the city with a long, twisting entrance? She couldn't ask and risk showing her ignorance. Even though she didn't know how she had come to be included here, the inclusion of Ethan Figman was equally mysterious. He was so squat and homely, with eczema running along his forearms like a lit fuse. Ethan didn't take his shirt off, ever. He spent free- swim period each day under the boiling tin roof of the animation shed with his teacher, Old Mo Templeton, who had apparently once worked in Hollywood with Walt Disney himself. Old Mo, who looked eerily like Gepetto from Disney's Pinocchio.

As Julie felt the effects of Ethan Figman's wet-ended joint, she imagined all their saliva joining on a cellular level, and she was disgusted by the image, then she laughed to herself, thinking: we are all nothing more than a seething, collapsing ball of cells. Ethan, she saw, was looking at her intently.

"Hmm," he said.

"What?"

"Telltale private chuckling. Maybe you want to slow down a little over there."

"Yeah, maybe I should," Julie said.

"I'm keeping an eye on you."

"Thanks," she said. Ethan turned back to the others, but in her precarious, high state she felt that Ethan had made himself her protector. She kept thinking a high person's thoughts, focusing on the collage of human cells that filled this teepee, all of it making up the ugly, kind boy; and the ordinary nothing that was herself; and the beautiful, delicate girl sitting across from her; and the beautiful girl's uncommonly magnetic brother; and the soft- spoken, gentle son of a famous folksinger; and, finally, the sexually confident, slightly unwieldy dancer girl with a sheaf of blond hair. They were all just countless cells that had joined together to make this group in particular— this group that Julie Jacobson, who had no currency whatsoever, suddenly decided she loved. That she was in love with, and would stay in love with for the rest of her life.

Excerpted from The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. Copyright © 2013 by Meg Wolitzer. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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