Monday, July 27, 2009

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER


Jennifer Weiner hits all the right notes in her latest New York Times #1 best selling novel, Best Friends Forever. Anyone who has ever had a best friend will relate to the story of Addie Downs and Val Adler, who became fast friends the day that nine-year-old Val moved in across the street from Addie.

The book opens with Val at their fifteen year high school reunion. She has an altercation with a man from high school who hurt her and tormented Addie in their senior year. Val fears that she has accidentally killed the man, and runs to Addie, whom she hasn't seen in fifteen years, for help.

Addie decides to help Val find out if the man is dead, and the (mis)adventure is on. Weiner has stated that the thought "what would happen if Thelma and Louis survived?" started her on the path to this novel, and their comical journey provides much humor for the novel.

However, it is the poignancy of the story that most appealed to me. We meet Addie and Val as girls, and follow their friendship through high school. Addie came from a loving family. Dad served in Vietnam, and suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome. He loved his wife, a greeting card writer and terrific cook, who suffered from obesity. Older brother Jon was a popular jock who became increasingly embarrassed by his family. Val lived with her mom, who seemed incapable of caring for her daughter.

Addie and Val drifted apart in high school, after an incident in their senior year ended their friendship. Addie looked forward to a new start away at college, but family tragedies put an end to that. She came home, took care of family business and never left again. She became an obese loner, rarely leaving her home.

Weiner creates empathy for Addie and Val. She drives home the point that people tend to think everyone else's life is easier that his or her own, and that people are generally surprised to discover that other people envy them. High school can be a difficult time for most people, and Weiner expertly brings that time back to the reader.

Addie Downs quickly became a favorite literary character of mine. While most people don't have her particular story, I related to her life. I felt like I knew Addie, her story was so authentic. Best Friends Forever will appeal to anyone who survived high school, and it may encourage you to reconnect with an old friend. Just hope that she doesn't turn up late at night on your doorstep in a bloody coat!

Rating 4 of 5 stars

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