The first 100 pages of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings are just that: interesting, but short of compelling. In the late sixties, six teenagers meet at an arts camp named Spirit-In-The-Woods and coin themselves The Interestings, because in the insular world of a summer camp, everyone seems talented and interesting. We get to watch their friendships evolve as they become adults, and we get to find out which characters can translate their teenaged talent into adult success. The premise is thought-provoking, but the first kisses and love triangles that begin the novel seem too small for the broader themes holding the rest of the book together. I found myself suffering from woodland fatigue, thanks to what has become an all-too-common sub-genre of literary fiction: the coming-of-age novel set in a summer camp for privileged, white kids.
But as the characters grow older and the novel’s stage moves into the real world, The Interestings becomes much, much more than common. The book addresses many of the most universal questions about the nature of friendships, art, and happiness, and it is fearlessly contemporary in the way the prose flies over multiple American decades, often comparing and contrasting eras and characters within these eras in the span of a single sentence.
Here’s the rest of my take on Meg Wolitzer’s new one: