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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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Print Excerpt


"The girl from Long Island speaks," said Goodman.

"Goodman, that comment makes you seem kind of horrible," said his sister.

"I am kind of horrible."

"Well, it makes you seem kind of Nazi horrible," said Ethan. "As if you're using some sort of code to remind everyone that Julie's Jewish."

"I'm Jewish too, Figman," said Goodman. "Just like you."

"No, you're not," said Ethan. "Because even though your father is Jewish, your mother isn't. You have to have a Jewish mother, or else they will basically throw you off a cliff."

"The Jews? They aren't a violent people. They didn't commit the My Lai massacre. I was just playing around," Goodman said. "Jacobson knows that, right? I was just goofing on her a little, right, Jacobson?"

Jacobson. She was excited to hear him call her that, though it was hardly what she'd imagined a boy might ever call her. Goodman looked at her and smiled, and she had to prevent herself from standing up and reaching out to touch the planes of his golden face; she'd never spent so much time this close to a boy who looked as magnificent as he did. Julie didn't even know what she was doing as she lifted her cup again, but he was still watching her, and so were the rest of them.

"O Crema Seamans, wherever thou art," she said loudly, "your life will be tragic. It will be cut short by an accident involving . . . animal desemenizing equipment." This was a suggestive, nonsensical remark that included a made-up word, but there were approval sounds from around the teepee.

"See, I knew there was a reason I invited her in," said Ash, turning to the others. " 'Desemenizing.' Go, Jules!"

Jules. There it was, right there: the effortless shift that made all the difference. Shy, suburban nonentity Julie Jacobson, who had provoked howls for the first time in her life, had suddenly, lightly changed into Jules, which was a far better name for an awkward-looking fifteen-year-old girl who'd become desperate for people to pay attention to her. These people had no idea of what she was usually called; they'd hardly noticed her in these first days of camp, though of course she'd noticed them. In a new environment, it was possible to transform. Jules, Ash had called her, and instantly the others followed Ash's lead. She was Jules now, and would be Jules forever.

Jonah Bay pulled at the strings of his mother's old guitar. Susannah Bay had taught acoustic guitar at this camp in the late 1950s, before her son was born. Every summer since then, even after she became famous, she appeared at some point for an impromptu concert, and apparently this summer would be no exception. She would just show up one day, though no one knew when, not even her son. Now, Jonah began a few prefatory strums, followed by some fancy picking. He barely seemed to be paying attention to what he was doing; he was one of those people whose musical ability seems effortless, careless, ingrained.

"Wow," Jules said, or just mouthed—she wasn't sure if the word had come out—as she watched him play. She imagined that he would become famous in several years like his mother; Susannah Bay would draw Jonah into her world, call him up onto a stage; it was inevitable. Now, when it seemed as if he might break into one of his mother's songs, like "The Wind Will Carry Us," he instead played "Amazing Grace," in honor of that girl from Goodman and Ash Wolf's cousin's school in Pennsylvania, who either did or did not exist.

They had only a little over an hour together, and then one of the counselors on coed patrol, a blunt- haired weaving instructor and lifeguard from Iceland named Gudrun Sigurdsdottir, came into the teepee with a bulky, indestructible flashlight that looked as if it were meant to be used during night ice fishing. She peered around and said, "All right, my young friends, I can tell that you have been smoking pot. That is not 'cool,' though you may think it is."

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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