Ruth Saunders and her grandmother are in Los Angeles for one reason, to be in the television business. Together since Ruth’s parents were killed in an accident that physically and emotionally scarred her for life, they go about their days as an assistant/aspiring writer and a stand-in for shows. Ruth really hopes to make it big with a show loosely based on her and Nana’s lives as they try to find their way (and of course love) in a big city after moving from their small New England town in the pages of Jennifer Weiner’s The Next Best Thing.
If you’re not new to Jennifer Weiner, you might remember Ruth Saunders from the short story Swim. I read it a while ago in her short story compilation, but in anticipation of the new book, it became available for free on eReaders. I was looking forward to The Next Best Thing because it had been a while since I read something by Weiner and I remember really liking Ruth’s story. Ruth is a very smart girl and has a boyfriend despite her floundering self-esteem due to her facial scarring and being surrounded by the superficial ways of the Hollywood types. She loves her job and is great as an assistant to her bosses although she has a ridiculous crush on one, even though she’d been burned by a boss in the past.
I wasn’t disappointed in the book, but it wasn’t as great as some of Weiner’s other stuff. It was incredibly predictable and nothing really just jumped out at me as overly emotional or shocking or anything. Normally I’m wiping my eyes or laughing out loud at her writing, but this time was just…okay. Ruth and Nana’s relationship was just…okay. Nana sort of takes care of Ruth and struggles with the notion that maybe she protected Ruth too much while growing up but it wasn’t anything phenomenal about the dynamic of their relationship.
A lot of time is spent on the background of Ruth. How she came to live with Nana, and how she got into writing in the first place. I liked it, but it all came at one time. Usually these background bits are sprinkled throughout the story. There are also A LOT of pop culture references because of the television industry. She mentions Friends but then will talk about the cast of Whitney. The television lingo doesn’t get to be too much, but there is a lot of detail describing the set and how a studio works and that sort of jazz. But that’s what the book is about , making a TV show.
Ruth is a good character. She’s slightly boring, and although she wants to be a comedy writer, she didn’t come off as too funny. I think I wanted her to be like a smart-ass, Tina Fey type character. She wasn’t unlikable, she just wasn’t memorable in the grand scheme of things. On Goodreads, I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars but I rated it right after I put my Kindle down, so now that I’ve slept a few times I give it a solid 3 stars. Good chick-lit but nothing more than that.
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