Hello Readers! It’s time to turn our focus on our reading picks for our “Me” Time, and today I want to talk about the book The Next Best Thing by bestselling author Jennifer Weiner. Weiner’s novels are great picks for every woman because her main characters are always everyday women. They have flaws, they have baggage, and they still get their (somewhat) happy endings.
The Next Best Thing is no exception to this storyline. In this novel, Ruth Sanders is the heroine whose first screenplay becomes a television show in Hollywood; Ruth’s dream was to see this particular show, named The Next Best Thing, become a real show for a major broadcasting station. The novel follows Ruth through the process of seeing her well loved show become another manipulated Hollywood television show until it no longer represents her dream. At the same time, Ruth’s life is on display as she suffers the consequences of losing her show and herself to the Hollywood viewpoint; she sees her relationships with friends and family almost disappear and her own opinion of herself lowers even more than before. In the end, however, she turns it around and sees her real vision come to life as she repairs those broken relationships and her broken dream of her show simultaneously.
What’s great about this novel is that it reveals the ugly truth of what happens to so many television shows that are pitched in Hollywood: they become corrupted by the producers and production companies that see only the numbers and not the story. It reveals what happens to most writers who see their great stories transform into something they never wanted, and it reveals how Hollywood can destroy relationships. But it also shows how real people do win in the end, and it shows that the original dream can sometimes be better than the corrupted Hollywood depiction. And love can exist for everyone.
I include this last part because, like all of Weiner’s main characters, Ruth Sanders is not perfect. She’s a meek character in the beginning who prefers to hide in the background rather than being in the open. She always attempts to cover one side of her face because of her disfigurement. Yes, she’s disfigured as the result of an accident in her childhood. On top of that, the same accident left her orphaned and being cared for by her grandmother. And she still finds love in the story.
But her prince isn’t the Hollywood dreamboat. He’s an average guy; actually, he also has his flaws. Her crush, Dave, is wheelchair-bound. And has a model for a girlfriend. It’s complicated. I won’t spoil the entire novel for you.
What I love about this is that, as a writer, I have often thought about writing a screenplay myself for a television series. However, my hold up has been that most television shows do not resemble the original vision of the show that the writer had when they wrote the screenplay or the pilot. This novel reveals why writers like myself are hesitant to write a television show that we cherish and love like a child: we don’t want to see our vision corrupted by big Hollywood producers in order to make more money.
I also love this novel because of the heroine and her flaws. Like with all of Weiner’s characters, I feel a kindred to them because of the flaws and the baggage. I am not perfect. No one is. And Weiner is great at creating these complex characters with physical flaws that make her characters self-conscious and self aware. Even if they don’t suffer from low self esteem issues, her characters are always aware of themselves and are careful about how they present themselves because of their flaws. And Ruth Sanders is no different from the rest. She, and all of Weiner’s heroines, is a real woman with real flaws.
I hope that I have inspired you, or intrigued you enough, to pick up this book and read it. I promise it has a happy ending that will complete the whole Hollywood experience and shows that nice guys do win in the end.
Until next time,