I haven’t read any of the books written by Jennifer Weiner, but I have quite a few of them on my various reading lists. The description and premise of The Next Best Thing is something that immediately intrigued me. Ruth Saunders, twenty-three years old, leaves her home in Massachusetts to try her luck in LA as a screenwriter. She moves to LA with her seventy-two-year-old grandmother in tow, and six years later, her sitcom The Next Best Thing is green-lit by a studio.
The story begins in LA when Ruth gets the call from the studio that her project is green-lit. She gets to make her pilot, and all her hard work has paid off. The timeline shifts to the earlier years of her life. Ruth was in a car accident with her parents when she was very young and, she was the only survivor. Her grandmother becomes her guardian and moves into the house to take care of Ruth. The accident causes damage to Ruth’s face when she is flung out of the car through the windshield and goes through many surgeries to reconstruct her face. She is insecure about her looks because she doesn’t believe anyone can see past her scarred face.
The story is divided into three parts. The first part gives us a glimpse of Ruth’s childhood, college, and then her decision to move to LA. She starts as an assistant writer on a tv show and has an unrequited crush on her boss that ends badly. On her second assistantship on a show, she meets two Daves, who play an important part n her journey moving forward. She is instantly attracted to little Dave as they call him, but she keeps it professional.
The second part focuses on her navigating through the showbiz and what it means to be a showrunner with help from Dave. Her grandmother and her boyfriend Maurice decide to get married. The third part shows the struggles she has to go through while making the pilot episodes and her relationship with Dave progresses.
I liked the characters of this novel. The story is pretty predictable in some ways, but it has a freshness to it. I think the point that stood out for me was the characters. Ruth is smart and talented; she is a survivor. She has been through many hardships since she was a young girl and that has strengthened her in a way. She is passionate about her work, and The Next Best Thing is a personal script for her.
Her insecurities hamper her possible relationships, but with the experiences she has had, you can’t fault her ways. The relationship between Ruth and grandmother is so sweet. Her grandmother is like her own personal cheerleader; she is always there for her, and they are all they have.
The main focus of the story is Ruth and the journey she goes through. That is the reason why I liked the division of the story into three parts. The first part gives an insight into Ruth’s life that made her relatable. The pace of the novel is a little slow. At times, it felt dragged on to me, and even though I ended up liking the story as a whole, it takes a while to get to an engaging point. Ruth and Dave have instant chemistry. They get along well from the start.
You get an idea about their personalities and know they would suit each other. Ruth’s experience with her previous boss, the one who rejects her, has added to her existing insecurities. It is a great moment when they get together towards the end. The story ends on a happy note for Ruth on the personal and professional front.
The writing, the characters, and the details of how the television industry works are the best parts of the novel. The only problem was the pacing, I wish the story could have been slightly shorter then it would have been the cherry on the top. Overall, I liked the story and the characters. It is a good read.
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