About a month ago, we gave you a fiction forecast for early 2013. On that list was one of my very favorite novelists, Meg Wolitzer, whose book The Interestings hits shelves on April 9. When a galley came in on Friday, I snatched it up with my sticky little hands and proceeded to spend most of the weekend turning pages as fast as I could.
For a reader, there is no greater gift than happening on a novel that is completely engrossing—to the point where you're a little distracted until you finish the book, and the characters start to take on lives of their own in your imagination. Wolitzer's novel—which is long and satisfying and packed with vivid and distinct personalities—gave me that experience.
The story starts in 1974, when six teenagers are campers at a co-ed summer camp for the arts called Spirit-in-the-Woods. There, the campers are able to be fully themselves, to develop friendships that will endure for their lives and to showcase the talents (animation, acting, dance) that make them special.
From there, the novel weaves back and forth from the '70s until the present. The campers grow up, find other jobs, hone their crafts. Some realize that the abilities they had displayed at camp are not really enough to make them successful artists in the real world, and others find that their talents make them wildly successful.
Though Wolitzer writs about big themes (in this case: ambition, envy, creativity) that cause you to think hard and evaluate your own life, her major achievement is in building characters. In The Interestings, you'll find characters that make bad decisions and characters that break your heart. They all feel alive on the page.
Wolitzer has said that her idea for this book came from her own experience at summer camp, which she says changed her life. (Exciting aside: In that same interview, Wolitzer said her next YA novel is "a dark YA girl book.")
You'll have to wait until April to get your hands on The Interestings, but I encourage you to put it on your list of must-reads for 2013—and in the meantime, peruse Wolitzer's backlist if you haven't already discovered this marvelous author.
RELATED READING: "The Second Shelf: On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women," by Meg Wolitzer for the New York Times Book Review (March 30, 2012).