Review

The Next Best Thing

by Jennifer Weiner

Ruth Saunders is just three years old when a car accident kills her parents and leaves her with permanent scars on her face and body. Her glamorous grandmother Rae immediately flies to her side, comforting Ruth during her many long hospitalizations and surgeries. During her convalescence, Ruth develops a fascination with “The Golden Girls,” watching it with Grandma and then making up stories about the characters. Grandma gives Ruth special notebooks to encourage her to write down these tales. As time goes by, Ruth grows determined to someday create a sitcom with as much humor and warm community as Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia shared in that classic series.

"Author Jennifer Weiner proves once again that her bestseller status is no accident by delivering another intriguing page-turner.... Readers are likely to enjoy a fascinating peek into the politics of television culture, coupled with a lively plot and a love story that is satisfying without being overpowering."

So, after Ruth graduates from college, she and Grandma pack up and leave Massachusetts to move to Los Angeles. When Ruth declares that she will try for one year to make it as a writer in Hollywood, Grandma scoffs at the short deadline and reassures her granddaughter that while many people believe they can write television shows, Ruth actually has the talent and the drive to succeed.

Los Angeles treats the newcomers well. They find a lovely apartment to rent, and Grandma soon has steady work as an extra in television shows. Meanwhile, Ruth covers her facial scars with concealer and a well-positioned fedora. She dresses in her best clothes and makes the rounds with her resume, finally finding work as a writer's assistant on a TV series called “The Girls' Room.” Ruth works hard, showing up early and going home late. She never complains about fetching and scheduling for the showrunner. One perk of the job is that she is able to sit in the writers' room in her spare time, which gives her a great education on how a television show is made.

Eventually, Ruth is given an assignment of writing an episode under the supervision of a staff writer named Rob Curtis. Ruth would bet big money that she'd never fall for someone like Rob, who specializes in loving and leaving women. Unfortunately, she would have lost that bet. Even as she and Rob poke fun at the "beautiful, stupid, black-hearted, and abusive star of the show" Taryn Montaine, Ruth enjoys flirting with him. She has never had a boyfriend and has always been so self-conscious about her scars that she believes she will never be able to find someone who will see her as lovable. Now she thinks she may have found the love of her life in Rob. When she decides to take action…well, let's just say the outcome is not quite what Ruth envisioned.

Still, it ultimately leads to Ruth's own sitcom, based on her life with her grandmother, being greenlighted. It's her life's dream come true, and both Ruth and Grandma are beyond thrilled. However, when one of her mentors urges her to enjoy this early success, Ruth tries to deny the foreboding she feels. Surely, she hopes, executives won't mess with her series enough to ruin it --- but it isn't long before it all begins to go awry.

Author Jennifer Weiner proves once again that her bestseller status is no accident by delivering another intriguing page-turner. She gives us sassy, sardonic Ruth to root for as well as plenty of zingers aimed at Hollywood's tweaked values. Readers are likely to enjoy a fascinating peek into the politics of television culture, coupled with a lively plot and a love story that is satisfying without being overpowering.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on July 13, 2012

The Next Best Thing
by Jennifer Weiner

  • Publication Date: April 30, 2013
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press
  • ISBN-10: 1451617763
  • ISBN-13: 9781451617764