Review: The Next Best Thing

The Next Best Thing
Jennifer Weiner
Atria Books
$26.99, hardback, 400  pages (also available as an ebook – $12.99)
Release date: July 3, 2012

Fans of Jennifer Weiner won’t be disappointed by her new book, The Next Best Thing. And the book won’t disappoint readers intrigued by seeing Weiner’s name on bestseller lists or her other books displayed as staff picks at their local bookstores.

The story follows Ruthie Saunders as she brings her idea for a sitcom focusing on a young woman and her grandmother to life. The sitcom loosely follows Ruthie’s own story: a young woman trying to succeed in a male-dominated world while living with her grandmother. In real life, Ruthie was raised by her grandmother after her parents’ death. The two moved to Los Angeles so Ruthie could pursue her dream of writing for television.

The Next Best Thing tracks her journey from assistant to showrunner, offering readers glimpses behind the Hollywood curtain as Ruthie decides how much she’s willing to compromise with the network to get her show on the air. Along the way, Ruthie’s relationship with her grandmother continues to evolve.

Weiner has a gift for creating vibrant characters; even minor characters are fully fleshed out on the page. The small details she invests in her characters end up making them seem like people you may know, or, in the case of The Next Best Thing, people you’ve read about in tabloid headlines.

The book’s release date couldn’t be better timed. The Next Best Thing is just right for taking to the beach or poolside. The plot moves quickly and keeps readers interested all the way through. Weiner deftly avoids making the book a vapid read – one of those summer books meant to be forgotten once it’s read and left behind at the shore house. Instead, she delivers a story with characters facing real decisions and who, at times, make real mistakes. Ruthie isn’t perfect, and that’s one of the reasons readers will come to love her and hope that Weiner revisits this slice of her universe in future books.

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