Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner: A review

Who knew that "influencer culture" was a thing? Who even knew there were such people as "influencers," people whose entire existence seems to be built around their ability to get you to buy stuff? Well, you knew, of course, because you are "hip" and "with it" and totally clued in to life on the internet. But me? I only live on the outer fringes of that circle and I admit to being pretty clueless about a lot of things. I only became aware of influencer culture when I picked up Jennifer Weiner's latest book.

Weiner guides us on a heady romp through that culture as we follow her character, Daphne Berg. Daphne, you see, is one of those influencers. A not very influential influencer on the great scale of things but she has her followers and fans. She is a plus-size woman who was previously a plus-size teen and a plus-size child. Daphne is fat, and she has accepted that fact and she now expounds the philosophy of body-acceptance through her various internet accounts. She makes money through those accounts by hawking the wares of various entities who pay her according to the number of clicks she generates. Daphne lives and works in New York and has become a creature of the internet. She barely even exists outside of it and almost never puts her phone down. She's always doing selfies which she posts on Instagram. She gets "attagirls" and sometimes questions from her fellow fat girls who want to know how she manages to be so brave. Her advice to them basically boils down to "fake it till you make it."

Daphne's own path to being a #fiercefatgirl began at a club one night. She had been set up for a date by her "friend" from high school days Drue Lathrop Cavanaugh. Drue was beautiful, rich, and mean. She was a typical high school mean girl and grew up to be a mean woman. The date she set up for Daphne was with a man who was not at all attracted to her and, in fact, found the way she looked repellent. At some point during the night, Daphne overheard a conversation between the two that made clear to her how her date saw her. Her shock at the discovery led to a moment of courage in which she was finally able to quit being a doormat and to stand up for herself in a mad scene that, of course, was recorded by someone's phone and posted on the internet where it quickly went viral. Daphne exited the club and vowed to "stop being a girl on a diet and just start being a girl." Her first move would be to drop "a hundred and seventeen useless pounds" named Drue Lathrop Cavanaugh. 

Over the next six years, she developed her persona as an influencer. She found a job as an after-school nanny for the children of two doctors. This gave her a steady and dependable income. She moved into an apartment with another friend from high school and she acquired a dog named Bingo. And all the time, she worked feverishly to develop and increase her online following.

And then Drue Lathrop Cavanaugh came back into her life.

Drue approach Daphne to ask her - to beg her - to be a part of her wedding. She had no one else she could ask. She needed a maid of honor and Daphne was the closest thing she had to a real friend. Daphne is resistant but ultimately succumbs to Drue's charm and her apologies for past behavior and agrees to participate.

Up until this point, the book had been a fun read. I was enjoying a light read and learning about this exotic thing called influencer culture, and then, about halfway through the book, it became a murder mystery/romance novel and seemed to lose a bit of its focus. Daphne engages in some hot and heavy sex with what could be the man of her dreams and on waking the next day she finds a dead body and her lover of the night before has disappeared. Where will this story lead us next? Well, Daphne turns into a bit of a private detective with the help of her roommate, Darshi, as she tries to discover the killer before the police's spotlight lands on her. 

Weiner is excellent in her descriptions of our collective fixation, especially twenty-somethings' fixation, with social media, to the point that it sometimes can seem that that generation lives its life on social media rather than what some of us still refer to as the real world. She explicates all of this in such a way that even a person as limited in her use of such media as myself can understand. Moreover, her depictions of always complicated female friendships resonate. There is so much to like about this book and only a small part that felt jarring and out of sync. On the whole, it's a great summer read.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars         

Comments

  1. Nice to read your post,this book big summer sounds interesting:)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Still wrapping my head around the influencer part. But wow the plot seems to change around the end, eh? I have not read Weiner before ... but I like the sound of the fun parts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She's a good writer and often brings out "summer" books. Last year's book, Mrs. Everything was a big hit and rightly so.

      Delete
  3. I am as un-hip as you....I've never heard of an influencer, and I'm honestly dismayed to hear of such a role in the world.

    Thank you for this wonderful review of the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm delighted to know that there is at least one other person in the world who didn't know what an "influencer" was!

      Delete
  4. This sounds very interesting. I am aware if multiple people who many describe as public intellectuals who kind of fill a different role on social media but who seem to have some similarity to the influencers described here. The digital age has indeed changed the world.

    I can see how the story might get less interesting as it transformed into light murder mystery.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It seemed to go a bit off the rails for me at that point. I didn't hate it - it just felt discordant.

      Delete
  5. Until I read Mrs Everything last year, which I liked a lot, I had only read an early book of Ms Weiner's, In Her Shoes, which was OK but too chick lit for me. You have got me interested in this one for sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I liked this one slightly less than Mrs. Everything but still enjoyed it quite a lot.

      Delete
  6. This sounds like a great read. I haven't read anything by Jennifer Weiner before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She's a very good writer who seems to specialize in the "beach read" genre.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Poetry Sunday: Excerpt from The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney

Open Season (Joe Pickett #1) by C.J. Box - A review

Poetry Sunday: Invitation by Mary Oliver