Study Guide

The Interestings

By Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings Introduction

Have you ever wanted to read an author's favorite book they've written? You know, just get right to the cream of the crop? It seems kind of cool to know that, as far as an author is concerned, you're reading the very best thing they've done.

Enter: The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer. Published in 2013, Wolitzer—who's written several successful books—considers this one her personal favorite. And it's a good thing, too, because since it's release, it's created quite a buzz, hanging out on the New York Times' bestsellers list and inspiring scores of reviews and interviews. And this means Wolitzer was going to have to talk about this book, whether she liked it or not. So luckily for her, she does.

This is a book about a group of friends who meet at teens, and it follows them well into adulthood, marking their triumphs and failures, disappointments and deceptions, all while circling around a main character, Jules, who's riddled with envy for the lives of her friends. Instead of a heartwarming tale of friendship, then, this book dives into the seedier side of human relationships, and is written with bite and sarcasm to match. Because of this, it offers up a, well, interesting take on human relationships and how they shift—or don't—as decades go by.

But you don't have to take our word for it—grab your copy and let's get going.

What is The Interestings About and Why Should I Care?

Raise your hand if you think growing up is pretty hard at times.

Yeah, we thought as much. Anyone who's pushed themselves through some growing pains knows that coming into your own ain't always easy. But you know what else isn't easy? Refusing to do that hard work. To this end, The Interestings is a kind of cautionary tale.

Ever heard the term Bildungsroman? It's not nearly as scary as it sounds—it's basically just fancy for coming of age. Some of the greatest entries in fiction have been about the journey from childhood to adulthood and all the gnarly character growth that happens along the way. Need an example? Mark Twain was all over the coming-of-age tale. Our boy Charles Dickens was, too.

There's nothing more coming-of-age-y than a story that starts with a young version of the protagonist, runs her through a bunch of tragic, comic, and just plain weird events, and then pops her out on the other side of childhood, all grown up. Now we guess that sounds pretty straightforward and not really like a strong reason to read The Interestings, but stick with us, because this book goes upside down fast.

Take nearly every Bildungsroman you can think of, and what's the common factor? The changes in the main character are changes you—the reader—can see, whether they're physical, emotional, or mental. The Interestings? Not so much. Sure, there's a lot of tragedy and stuff happening to the characters around our main player, Jules, but not a whole lot actually changes with her, besides the simple fact of getting older. Girl is not one for self-examination.

So what happens to a coming-of-age story when the main character mostly resists change, and generally seems to be the exact same person when she grows up? The whole freaking Bildungsroman premise gets upended, and all of its redemption is tossed in the process. So if you've ever read a story about a character who starts out lost, but winds up finding themselves and their way in the world, then you should read this book to explore what happens when the opposite transpires.

And if you've been digging your heels in when it comes to coming of age yourself, then you should definitely crack the spine on this book. We assure you that Jules's life won't inspire envy.

The Interestings Resources

Websites

The Author's Website
Everything you need to know about Meg Wolitzer in one convenient place.

How to Do What Dennis Does
"Ultrasound Technician" seems like a totally weird choice for a character's job, so here's a WikiHow on the way you get there.

The Lowdown on Mo
Not sure what autism spectrum disorder means? This site gives you the deets.

Articles and Interviews

"Best Friends Forever"
The New York Times has classic book review on The Interestings that's one part summary and one part mild thematic analysis. Bonus: The article starts off with the phrase "misanthropic wag."

Wolitzer and McGrath
Want to know what the writing process is like and how an author works with their editor? Read this interview between Wolitzer and her longtime editor, Sarah McGrath.

Video

Wolitzer in Conversation with Delia Ephron
Have an hour to kill? Then check out Wolitzer talking about her book in an informal setting with the New York Society Library.

Audio

Wolitzer Goes on NPR
Listen to an interview with the author where she talks about, among other things, her own childhood experiences at summer camp and the strange challenge of writing teen dialogue.

Everyone Loves a Book Club
Listen to Slate editors and a writer for The Atlantic discuss whether Wolitzer's book is actually interesting.

Images

Wolitzer and Her Editor
Wolitzer is pictured here with her longtime editor, Sarah McGrath. Given the success of Wolitzer's novels, these two must work well together.

In Her Free Time
Ever wanted to know what an author you like find interesting has on their own bookshelf or in their movie library? Take a look at some of Wolitzer's favorite things.

Speaking of Gender Neutral
Check out the cover, which Wolitzer requested not come across as chick lit.