From New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner comes "a smart, witty fairy tale for grownups" (Maureen Corrigan, NPR).
Addie Downs and Valerie Adler will be best friends forever. That’s what Addie believes after Valerie moves across the street when they’re both nine years old. But in the wake of betrayal during their teenage years, Val is swept into the popular crowd, while mousy, sullen Addie becomes her school’s scapegoat.
Flash-forward fifteen years. Valerie Adler has found a measure of fame and fortune working as the weathergirl at the local TV station. Addie Downs lives alone in her parents’ house in their small hometown of Pleasant Ridge, Illinois, caring for a troubled brother and trying to meet Prince Charming on the Internet. She’s just returned from Bad Date #6 when she opens her door to find her long-gone best friend standing there, a terrified look on her face and blood on the sleeve of her coat. "Something horrible has happened," Val tells Addie, "and you’re the only one who can help."
Best Friends Forever is a grand, hilarious, edge-of-your-seat adventure; a story about betrayal and loyalty, family history and small-town secrets. It’s about living through tragedy, finding love where you least expect it, and the ties that keep best friends together
|Publisher:||Washington Square Press|
|Product dimensions:||8.32(w) x 5.34(h) x 1.03(d)|
About the Author
Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of sixteen books, including Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, and her memoir, Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing. A graduate of Princeton University and contributor to the New York Times Opinion section, Jennifer lives with her family in Philadelphia. Visit her online at JenniferWeiner.com.
Date of Birth:March 28, 1970
Place of Birth:De Ridder, Louisiana
Education:B.A., Princeton University, 1991
Read an Excerpt
Looking back, the knock on the door should have scared me. It should at least have come as a surprise. My house the same one I grew up in is set at the farthest curve of a culde- sac in Pleasant Ridge, Illinois, a Chicago suburb of fourteen thousand souls with quiet streets, neatly kept lawns, and well-regarded public schools. There are rarely pedestrians or passersby on Crescent Drive. Most weeks, the only signs of life after ten p.m. are the flash of headlights on my bedroom wall on the nights that my next-door neighbor Mrs. Bass has her Shakespeare Society meeting. I live alone, and I'm generally asleep by ten-thirty. But even so. When I heard the knock, my heartbeat didn't quicken; my palms did not sweat. At some level underneath conscious thought, a place down in my cells where, the scientists tell us, memories reside, I'd been waiting years for that knock, waiting for the feel of my feet moving across the floor and my hand on the cool brass knob.
I pulled open the door and felt my eyes get big and my breath catch in my chest. There was my old best friend, Valerie Adler, whom I hadn't spoken to since I was seventeen and hadn't seen in person since high school ended, standing underneath the porch light; Valerie with her heart-shaped face and Cupid's-bow lips and lashes heavy and dark as moth's wings. She stood with her hands clasped at her waist, as if in prayer. There was something dark staining the sleeve of her belted trench coat.
For a minute, we stood in the cold, in the cone of light, staring at each other, and the thought that rose to my mind had the warmth of sunshine and the sweet density of honey. My friend, I thought as I looked at Val. My friend has come back to me.
I opened my mouth to say what, I wasn't sure but it was Val who spoke first. "Addie," she said. Her teeth were gleaming, perfect and even; her voice was the same as I remembered from all those years ago, husky, confiding, an I've-got-a-secret kind of voice that she currently deployed to great effect, delivering the weather on the nightly newscasts on Chicago's third-rated TV station. She'd been hired six months ago, to great fanfare and a number of billboards along the interstate announcing her new gig. ("Look who just blew into town!" the billboards read, underneath a picture of Val, all windswept hair and crimson, smiling lips.) "Listen. Something...something really bad happened," she said. "Can you help me? Please?"
I kept my mouth shut. Val rocked back on high heels that seemed no thicker than pins, gulping as she raked both hands through her hair, then brought them to waist level and began twisting her belt. Had I known she had that haircut, that buttercup-yellow color, that shoulder-length style, with layers that curled into ringlets in the rain, when I'd given my hairdresser the goahead? I made a point of not watching her station, but maybe I'd caught a glimpse of her as I changed channels or the billboards had made an impression, because somehow here I was, in flannel pajamas and thick wool socks, with my ex-best-friend's hair on my head.
"Look at you," she said, her voice low and full of wonder. "Look at you," said Valerie. "You got thin."
"Come in, Val," I said. If time was a dimension, and not a straight line, if you could look down through it like you were looking through water and it could ripple and shift, I was already opening the door. This had all already happened, the way it always did; the way it always would.
Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Weiner, Inc.
I led Valerie into the kitchen, listening to the drumbeat of her heels on the hardwood floor behind me. She wriggled out of her coat and used her fingertips to hang it over the back of a chair, then looked me up and down. "You weren't at the reunion," she said.
"I had a date," I answered.
She raised her eyebrows. I turned away, filling the kettle at the sink, then setting it on the burner and flicking on the gas, unwilling to say more.
My night had not started out well. On the dating website's advice, I'd met the guy, my sixth blind date in as many weeks, at the restaurant ("Do NOT invite a stranger to your house!" the website had scolded. "Always meet in public, always carry a cell phone, car keys, and/or enough money for transportation, and always let a friend know where you are!") I'd gotten the first parts of it right, driving my own car, with my cell phone charged and enough money to cover the bill in my wallet, but I hadn't been able to fulfill the last part, on account of being, at the moment, friendless (friend-free?), so instead, I'd printed out a note in eighteen-point bold type and taped it to my fridge: I WENT TO MEET MATTHEW SHARP ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 23. IF ANYTHING HAPPENED TO ME, IT'S PROBABLY HIS FAULT. I'd added my date's telephone number, the name and address of the restaurant, and a photocopy of my insurance card. I'd thought for a minute, then added, P.S.: I WOULD LIKE A MILITARY FUNERAL...because, really, who wouldn't? Buglers playing taps equals guaranteed tears.
"Addie?" the man by the hostess stand said. "I'm Matthew Sharp." He was on time, and tall, as promised. This was a refreshing change: the five guys I'd previously met were not, in general, as promised. Matthew Sharp was neatly dressed in a tweed sports coat, a dark-blue button-down shirt, pressed pants, and loafers. His breath, as he leaned close to shake my hand, smelled like cinnamon, and a mustache bristled over his lip. Okay, I thought. I can work with this. True, the mustache was an unpleasant surprise, and his hairline had receded since he'd posed for his online picture, but who was I to complain?
"Nice to meet you," I said, and slipped my black wool coat off my shoulders.
"Thanks for coming." He looked me up and down, his eyes lingering briefly on my body before flicking back to my face. He didn't look appalled, nor did he appear to be edging toward the door. That was good. I'd dressed in what had become my date uniform: a black skirt that came to precisely the center of my knees (not short enough to be slutty, not long enough to be dowdy), a blouse of dark-red silk, black hose, black boots with low heels, in case he'd been lying about his height or, less likely but still possible, in case I needed to run. "Our table's ready. Would you like a drink at the bar first?"
"No thanks." The website recommended only a single glass of wine. I'd keep my wits about me and not give him any reason to think I had a drinking problem.
The hostess took our coats and handed Matthew a ticket. "After you," he said as I tucked my scarf and hat into my purse and shook out my hair. My calves had finally gotten skinny enough for me to zip my knee-high boots to the very top. I'd gone to my hairdresser that morning, planning on nothing more than a trim, but, buoyed by Paul's repeated use of the word "amazing!" and the way he'd actually gotten teary when he'd seen me, I'd allowed myself to be talked into six hours' and five hundred dollars' worth of cut, color, and chemicals, and left with a layered bob that Paul swore made me look sixteen from certain angles, honey-blond highlights, and conditioner with a French-sounding name, guaranteed to leave my hair frizz-free and shiny for the next four months.
I asked for a glass of Chardonnay, Caesar salad, and broiled sole, sauce on the side. Matthew ordered Cabernet, calamari to start with, then a steak.
"How was your holiday?" he asked.
"It was nice," I told him. "Very quiet. I spent the day with family." This was true. I'd taken the full Thanksgiving dinner butternut squash soup, roast turkey, chestnut stuffing, sweet potatoes under a blanket of caramelized marshmallow, the obligatory pumpkin pie to my brother, Jon, at his assisted-living facility on the South Side. We'd eaten sitting on the floor of his small, overheated room, our backs against his single bed, watching Starship Troopers, which was his favorite. I'd left by three and been back home by four. There, I'd made myself a cup of tea, added a slug of whiskey, and left a dish of chopped turkey and gravy out for the little black cat that frequents my back door. I'd spent the evening sitting in the living room, one hand on my belly, looking at the shifting grays and lavenders of the sky, until the moon came up.
"How about you?"
Matthew told me he'd had dinner with his parents, his sister, and her husband and kids. He'd cooked the turkey, rubbing butter and sage under the skin and slow-roasting it over a bed of onions. He said he loved to cook, and I said I did, too. I told him about my adventures in guacamole. He told me about the shows he watched on the Food Network and the hot new restaurant in Chicago he was dying to try.
The waiter slid our plates in front of us. Matthew tucked a tentacle into his mouth. "How's your salad?" he asked. A bit of fried breading was stuck in his mustache, and I had to fight an impulse to reach over and brush it away.
"It's great." It was overdressed, each leaf oily and dripping, but that was okay a bad salad was a perfectly reasonable tradeoff for, finally, thank you God, a decent date. I chewed a mouthful into lettuce-flavored paste, and we smiled at each other.
"Tell me about your job," Matthew said.
"I paint illustrations for greeting cards."
He actually seemed interested, which was a pleasant change from my previous dates. How had I gotten into that line of work? (Through my mother, who'd written copy for the same line of cards and had submitted one of my watercolors without telling me years ago.) Did I work from home? (Yes, I'd set up a studio in the dining room, with my easel by the window, where the light was best.) He asked about the hours, about my training, about whether I got lonely working all by myself, instead of in an office. I could have given him a soliloquy, an essay, could have sung an entire libretto on the topic of loneliness, but instead I'd just said, "I don't mind being by myself."
He told me about his job running a chain of self-storage warehouses in Illinois and Wisconsin. I asked about where he'd grown up and where he lived now, lifting a soggy crouton to my lips, then setting it back on the plate, untasted, waiting for the moment that had come during each of my other dates, when he'd start trashing his exwife. Of the five men I'd gone out with, four of them had proclaimed that their exes were crazy (one had upped his diagnosis to "certifiably insane"). The fifth was a widower. His wife had been a saint, which sounded even worse than crazy when you were the potential follow-up act.
He was nice, I thought, as Matthew expounded enthusiastically on the hike he'd taken just last weekend with the Sierra Club. "I go out with them a few times a month," he volunteered. "Maybe you could join me?"
My first thought was that he was kidding me, hike? Where, from the Cinnabon to the Ben & Jerry's? I still had to remind myself that I was now more or less normal-sized, and that Matthew had never seen me in my previous incarnation. "Sure. That sounds like fun." A hike in the woods. I let myself picture it: a red fleece pullover, a hat that matched my mittens, the thermos full of hot coffee that I'd bring. We'd sit side by side on a blanket in the leaves and watch as a stream burbled by.
Our entrees arrived. My fish was mealy at the edges, translucent in the center, tasting as dead as if it had never been alive. I managed two bites while Matthew told the story of how his colleague, a middle-aged middle manager named Fred, had suddenly taken it into his head to get his eyes done. "He came into the office and he looked Well, one of the secretaries said he looked like a squirrel with something jammed up his..." He paused. A dimple flashed in his cheek. "Like a startled squirrel. Like his eyes were trying to jump right out of his head, and I heard that when his granddaughter saw him for the first time she started crying." He chuckled. I smiled. Love me, I thought, and sipped my wine and trailed one manicured thumbnail delicately along the edge of my blouse, beneath which my breasts swelled, clad in itchy lace, helped along by heavy-duty underwire.
Matthew leaned across the table, with his tie dangling dangerously close to the puddle of beef blood on his plate. "You're a really unique person," he said.
I smiled, shoving my doubts about the syntax of "really unique" to the back of my mind.
"I feel so comfortable with you. Like I could tell you anything," he continued.
I kept smiling as he gazed at me. He had nice eyes behind the glasses. Kind eyes. Maybe I could talk him into shaving the mustache. I could see us together, on a slope covered with fallen leaves, my mittened hands around a cup, the coffee-scented steam curling in the air. Please stop talking, I begged him telepathically. Every time you open your mouth, you are jeopardizing our beautiful life together.
Sadly, Matthew didn't get the message. "Six months ago," he began, with his eyes locked on mine, "I woke up with a bright light shining through my bedroom windows. I looked up and saw an enormous green disc hovering above my home."
"Ha!" I laughed. "Ha ha ha!" I laughed until I realized he wasn't laughing...which meant that he wasn't kidding.
"I have reason to believe," he continued, and then paused, lips parted beneath his mustache, "that I was abducted by aliens that night." He was so close that I could feel his beefy breath on my face. "That I was probed."
"Dessert?" asked the waiter, sliding menus in front of us.
I managed to shake my head no. I couldn't speak. I was single, true. I was desperate, also true. I had slept with only one man at the shamefully advanced age of thirty-three. I'd never heard the words "I love you" from someone who wasn't a parent. But still, I was not going home with a guy who claimed to have been violated by space aliens. A girl has her limits.
When the check came, Matthew slipped a credit card into the leather folder and looked at me ruefully. "I guess I shouldn't talk about the alien abduction on first dates."
I adjusted my neckline. "Probably not. I usually wait until the third date to talk about my tail."
"You have a tail?" Now he was the one who couldn't tell if I was kidding.
"A small one."
"You're funny," he'd said. There was a kind of drowning desperation in his voice, a tone I knew well. Help me, he was saying. Throw me a rope, give me a smile, let me know it's okay. I got to my feet while Matthew searched his pockets for a few bucks to tip the coat-check girl, then followed him through the restaurant, waiting as he held the door. "You seem like a good person," Matthew said in the parking lot, reaching for my hand. I moved sideways, just enough so that I was out of his reach. You're wrong, I thought. I'm not.
Outside, the predinner mist had thickened into a chilly fog. Streetlamps glowed beneath golden halos of light. Matthew ran his hand through his hair. Even in the cold, he was sweating. I could see droplets glimmering through his mustache. "Can I call you?" he asked.
"Sure." Of course, I wouldn't answer, but that didn't seem smart to mention. "You've still got my number, right?"
"Still got it." He smiled, pathetically grateful, and leaned forward. It took me a second to realize that he intended to kiss me, and another second to realize that I was going to let him. His mustache brushed my upper lip and cheek. I felt absolutely nothing. He could have pressed a bottle brush or a Brillo pad against my face; I could have been kissing his lapel or the hood of my Honda.
By the time I got home, he'd already left a message, long,meandering, and apologetic. He was sorry if he'd freaked me out.He thought that I was great. He was looking forward to seeing me again, maybe on Sunday? There was a movie that had gotten a good write-up in the Trib, or a hot-air-balloon festival. We could drive out, pack a picnic...his voice trailed off hopefully. "Well," he said. "I'll talk to you soon." He recited his telephone number. I thumbed number three for "erase," kicked off my boots, twisted my bright new hair into a plastic clip, then sat on the edge of my bed with my face in my hands and allowed myself one brief, dry, spinsterish sob. Don't get your hopes up. The website didn't say that. It was what I told myself as inoculation against the fantasy, persistent as a weed, that one of these guys could be the one: that I could fall in love, get married, have babies, be normal. Don't get your hopes up. I'd chant it like a mantra on my drive to the Starbucks or the Applebee's or, with Date Number Four, the bowling alley, where, it turned out, the fellow had had the ingenious notion of combining a first date with a fifth birthday party for his son (his exwife had not been glad to meet me; neither, for that matter, had his five-year-old). Don't get your hopes up...but every time I did, and every time I got my stupid heart crushed.
"Oh, well," I said out loud. Funny. That had been nice to hear. But it was so unfair! To get a date on the Internet, a woman had to be many things, starting with thin and proceeding relentlessly to attractive and pleasant and a good listener and good company. Young, of course. Still fertile, still cute, with a good body and a decent job and a supportive (but not intrusive) family. The men didn't even have to be sane.
I looked at the clock, the antique pink-and-green enameled clock on chubby gold legs that I'd bought myself for my birthday. It was just after ten. The reunion would be in full swing. Merry Armbruster had called me that afternoon, making one more last-ditch plea for my attendance. "You look fantastic now! And I'm sure everyone's forgotten about...well, you know. We've all grown up. There's other things people will want to talk about."
Thanks but no thanks. I swallowed my vitamins with a glass of water and chased them with a shot of wheatgrass (I'd been drinking the stuff for two years, and it still tasted exactly like pureed lawnmower clippings). I hung up my date uniform, replaced the lace bra with a comfortable cotton one, pulled on my favorite flannel pajamas and a pair of socks, then sat back down on the edge of my bed, suddenly exhausted. Just lately, I'd been thinking a lot about the girl I'd been, and what she would have made of the woman I'd become. I imagined the little me standing at the doorway of my bedroom, once my parents', in a neat cotton sweater and a pleated skirt, dark-brown hair caught in a ponytail and tied with a ribbon that matched her kneesocks. At first she'd be pleased by the rich color of the paint on the bedroom walls, the oil painting that I'd done of a lighthouse casting its beam of gold over the water, hanging above the window. She would like the enameled vase on the bedside table, the crisp linen bedskirt and the trellised iron headboard, but then she'd realize that it was my parents' bedroom. Still here? she'd think, and I'd have to explain how I hadn't meant to stay, how I'd tried to go away to college, how I'd planned to live in a big city, to have boyfriends and an interesting job, to make friends and take trips and have an apartment that I'd decorate with souvenirs and statues and photographs I'd have taken on my travels around the world, how I'd planned on all of that, but somehow...
I rolled onto my side. My blood buzzed, and my thoughts were darting wildly, jumping from my date who'd looked so promising, to the website where I'd found him, to my exboyfriend Vijay, who'd been "ex" for four months, and who'd never exactly been a boyfriend. You couldn't call him a boyfriend, I guess, if we'd been out together in public only once, but I'd loved him with an intensity that I thought or at least hoped was reserved for the first man you'd wanted who'd broken your heart.
I squeezed my eyes shut and let my hand rest briefly on my belly, holding my breath as I pressed. Still there. The lump it was actually more of a stiffness than a lump was still there, between the ridge of my pubic bone and my belly button. I pushed at it, prodding with my fingertips. It didn't hurt, exactly, but it didn't feel normal, either. I didn't know how long it had been there for years I'd been so fat I could have been gestating twins and probably not noticed but I was sure that I knew what it was. Hadn't I watched my own mother die of the samething? First her breasts, then her liver, then her lungs and her bones, then everything, everywhere.
I'd scheduled an appointment with my doctor for next week, the soonest they could take me. The receptionist's chirpy voice had cooled noticeably at my name, and I knew why. Last year I'd called in a panic after my fingers had found an odd-shaped protuberance on the side of my abdomen...which had turned out to be my hipbone. Well, how was I supposed to know? I thought, as sullen as I'd been when the nurse delivered the verdict, then stepped outside the exam room to laugh her stupid highlighted head off. You spend ten years in the neighborhood of three hundred and fifty pounds and see how well you recognize your own bones when you find them again.
Besides, this time it felt different. Big, strangely stiff, growing each day. I knew what it was, and deep down, I'd known that it was coming. Bad luck always found me. I was a bad-luck kind of girl. The cancer had eaten my mother and found her sweet, and now it had returned to Crescent Drive, hoping I'd taste the same. And maybe that wouldn't be so awful, I thought, as I lay on my fancy bedding, staring up at the crown moldings I'd hotglued in place with my birthday clock ticking quietly beside me. I could just give up on everything, starting with Internet dating. No more freaks and geeks and unexpected mustaches; no more regular-looking guys who turned out to be from the Twilight Zone. I could just read, stay in bed eating shortbread cookies and gelato, and wait for the end...and with that, I heard the knock at the door, and I went downstairs to find my best friend standing there, just like old times.
Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Weiner, Inc.
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner
“If time was a dimension, and not a straight line, if you could look down through it like you were looking through water and it could ripple and shift, I was already opening the door,” says Addie Downs in her first chapter of Best Friends Forever. It’s been years since Addie has seen her long-lost best friend Valerie Adler. Addie and Val became instant best friends when Val moved into Addie’s neighborhood in the small town of Pleasant Ridge, Illinois. Ripped apart by betrayal their senior year of high school, they are reunited fifteen years later when Val shows up at Addie’s door asking for help.
In her sixth novel, Jennifer Weiner crafts a story full of mystery, humor, love, and forgiveness through the prism of female friendship.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. “In all my years of fuming and resentful imagining, all the years I’d carried my grudge like a pocketbook I was afraid to set down even for an instant, I’d never considered that there might be a different way of looking at the situation, another truth,” says Addie of seeing Valerie after many years have passed (on page 96). What does this say about friendships? About personal relationships? About forgiveness?
2. Addie, who suffered from years of insecurity prompted by emotional eating and teasing, often perceives Val as her antithesis. Does this make her a reliable narrator for the story of their friendship? How were Addie’s feelings about herself as a teenager based on what she thought of Val?
3. One of the major themes in this novel is the idea of transformation. Cite examples of how people transform both internally and externally. Who changes by way of fate? Who chooses to change?
4. Compare and contrast how the girls are shaped by their relationships with their respective mothers. How are Val and Addie similar to or different from their mothers?
5. Val’s father is absent, while Addie’s father is physically present, but can be emotionally distant, retreating from his family to his work space. How are Val and Addie shaped by the relationships they have with their fathers? Are there examples of either of them emulating those relationships with men?
6. From Jordan’s baby-proof home to Kevin Oliphant’s “shitbox,” describe how a character’s space, seen through the eyes of Jordan, may have impacted how you felt about him or her.
7. The novel is filled with different versions of the same stories. While investigating Dan Swansea’s disappearance, Jordan comes upon different perceptions of the same people. How does this illustrate the difference between the stories we tell ourselves and what is actually happening? Does this make it easier for Addie’s classmates to point the finger at Jon?
8. From Addie’s stay-at-home father to Patti’s Guatemalan baby, what do you think the author is saying about alternative families?
9. Why do you think Addie chooses to keep her baby?
10. In Best Friends Forever, characters’ lives are often marked by moves. Valerie moves into Addie’s neighborhood, Jordan and Patti move to Pleasant Ridge to start a family. How does the author use this notion to further the plot?
11. The balance of power often shifts between Addie and Valerie. Cite examples when the balance is in Valerie’s favor. When is the balance in Addie’s favor?
12. On page 216, Mrs. Bass tells Jordan that he has “a great deal to learn about human nature.” How is this illustrated with other characters in the novel? Is it at all? What does this tell us about the overall theme of the novel? About the people in the small town of Pleasant Ridge?
13. “I wondered sometimes whether it had to do with Jon. Maybe they hated me because they couldn’t hate him,” Addie says on page 227, attempting to make sense of why she’s a target of bullying. Do you agree with Addie? Do you think she’s making excuses for her classmate’s cruelty?
14. On page 121, Addie describes Jon as someone who would “never grow up, never have to worry about the things grown-ups worried about.” Why do you think the idea of never growing up is such a comfort to Addie?
Tips to Enhance Your Book Club Experience
1. Imagine a road trip with a long lost friend. What would it be like? Where would the two of you go?
2. Is there a long-lost friend you dream of getting back in touch with? Tell the group about this friend, why you grew apart, and what you think it would be like to get back in touch.
3. Go to a social networking site such as Facebook.com and see if you can find old friends you’ve lost touch with. Are you surprised by how their lives turned out, or are they pretty much what you’d imagined?
1. Did writing Goodnight Nobody prepare you for the facets of mystery in Best Friends Forever: the investigation, the crime, the Thelma and Louise–like road trip?
Writing Goodnight Nobody definitely helped. So did talking to the detectives who were nice enough to walk me through investigatory procedure (and to okay the liberties I planned on taking). I think the best part of researching this book was going to see the Lower Merion Township jail, which not only has a video setup for long-distance arraignments (the suspect stands in front of one camera and the judge, at home, in front of another), but also features the federally mandated handicapped-accessible holding cell, which was absolutely too good not to use in the book.
2. Some of the same negative forces in Addie’s life—Val and Vijay specifically—were also positive forces. Is that what you wanted your readers to take away from her experiences?
I think you can learn from any experience and any person, even the ones that hurt you so badly that you don’t think you’ll be able to survive them at the time. So yes, insofar as I had a message (and really, I cringe at the idea of books that try too hard to “teach” you something, and are not textbooks), the message was that you can survive anything life throws at you—a parent’s death, a friend’s betrayal, a boyfriend who breaks your heart—and come out stronger on the other side.
3. Before she dies, Addie’s mother tells her, “There’s all kinds of love in the world, and not all of it looks like the stuff in greeting cards.” It seems like this is a metaphor for the entire novel. What are you trying to get across about the nature of love, forgiveness, and faith?
When Addie’s mother is talking to her about love, Addie (and the reader) might assume that she’s talking about romance. I like to think that what she’s really talking about is Valerie, who betrayed Addie, and was herself betrayed by Addie. I think if she’d had more time, Nancy might have told her daughter that there aren’t too many people you meet who you’ll know and love for as long as you’re alive. You won’t have your parents around for your whole life, or your children…but a good friend can be forever.
4. There are some comedic references to religious faith, particularly with Val and Chip Mason, and Dan Swansea is literally bombarded by faith. Why did you include this religious component?
When I wrote this book, I was thinking about religion, and the way God (at least the God in the Old Testament) tests people. Addie is kind of my version of Job—the person who has everything taken away, who is tested, seemingly at random. I wanted to answer the question: what happens to a woman who’s an outcast to start with, and who loses everything she loves—her brother, her best friend, her parents, her boyfriend? How does she find the strength to go on? I guess the answer—she finds her strength in friendship—suggests that maybe friendship is its own kind of faith, its own kind of religion.
5. As the story progresses, Dan becomes more of a catalyst for reuniting Val and Addie than an actual problem. Is that the direction you’d intended for his character to take, or did he surprise you?
Oh, Dan! He gave me so much trouble! There was a version of the book where he did die in that parking lot. There was another version where he was kidnapped and tortured by a bunch of angry feminists masquerading as a book club (because nobody suspects the book club!). It took me a long time and about a half-dozen drafts before I figured out that he wasn’t a main character as much of a catalyst—a means to an end instead of an end in himself. Which is comeuppance enough for a former BMOC, right?
6. You’ve explored close female relationships in all of your books. What made you want to delve into the land of female friendships?
I was interested in the idea of friendship as a choice. I’ve written a lot about the relationships you don’t choose: mothers and daughters, mothers and daughter-in-laws, sisters, new mothers and babies…with this book, I wanted to write about a relationship that you can opt into and out of.
Plus, like many women, I’ve had the experience of the friend who got away—the person you thought would always be part of your life, and then isn’t, because you had a falling-out over whatever (with “whatever,” at least in my experience, usually being a boy). Or you got married and she didn’t, or she had kids and you didn’t, or whatever. I think that’s an experience that many women have, and I was really interested in seeing how it would play out in a novel.
7. In Best Friends Forever, similar to some of your previous titles, the darker plot twists—cancer, obesity, rape, neglect—are peppered with humor. Do you consciously balance those elements as you write?
Actually, not really—it’s not as if I’m thinking, “ooh, this part was really dark, better throw in a joke,” or “time for a serious scene to balance out the funny”! I think it’s just the way I’m wired, that my stories unfold with both humor and pathos…and I think I’m wired that way because of my own life, where, with every awful thing that happened, my mother would always tell me, “You’ll laugh about this someday!” or “It’s all material!”
8. At one point, Addie is stripped of all her personal relationships. Do you think that’s what she needed to engage in the world around her?
Again, I saw Addie as my Job—the woman who was going to lose everything in order to rebuild a better life (actually, maybe instead of Job, she’s the Six Million Dollar Woman—“Gentlemen, we can rebuild her!”).
9. We get our first glimpse of Addie’s newly designed home through the eyes of Jordan. He describes it specifically on page 223 as a “place made for pleasure.” What kind of research did you do regarding home design? Do Addie’s design choices reflect your own?
I did the usual—looked through a lot of home magazines, thought a lot about the kind of choices Addie would make—and because she’s an artist, she’d probably make better choices than I do. But I wanted there to be a clear contrast between her home and Jordan’s—specifically, I wanted him to live in a place that was totally alienating, where he couldn’t open the cabinets or unlock the oven, and for Addie’s place to feel very inviting and open.
10. The end of the novel leaves a lot of room for a sequel. Are you thinking of continuing Addie and Valerie’s story?
I’ll have to see if they keep talking to me!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed this book a lot. It was a quick read, enjoyable, and had a certain amount of mystery/suspense. I didn't love the somewhat abrupt ending. I wanted to know more about how things were sorted out with Jordan, Valerie, Addie, and the others. Not sure if the author is leaving the door open for a follow up book...! Weiner's books are a little formulated, though. There's always a fat girl with 'mousy' hair who manages to slim down, there's always a fabulous friend, and there's a man who 'unexpectedly' becomes a love interest for the fat girl. I do enjoy seeing characters who aren't the typical chick lit read, but I'd like to see it mixed up a little.
I am a huge fan of Jennifer Weiner. With the exception of _The Guy Not Taken_, I've greatly enjoyed every one of her books (with _Good in Bed_ and _Certain Girls_ as personal all-time favorites), but this one just did not do it for me, at all ... sadly. There was a brief moment while the two main characters examined the issues in their "breakup" in which I teared up a bit at the thought of the ways my friendship with my first best friend went wrong, but the rest of the book seemed implausible (i.e. "silly"), one-dimensional, and lacking in the depth I usually find beneath Weiner's humor. Though the main character is well defined, all other characters seem like total caricatures with a few who were downright stereotypes. This one is not worth reading, in my opinion.
Author Jennifer Weiner is the New York Times best-selling author of several books including: Certain Girls, Good in Bed, Little Earthquakes, Goodnight Nobody, The Guy Not Taken, and In Her Shoes (which was made into a major motion picture.) She is a graduate of Princeton University and resides in Philadelphia, PA with her family. When Valerie Adler moved across the street from Addie Downs when they were both nine years old, Addie just knew they'd be best friends forever. But in the wake of an incident and betrayal in high school, the friendship dissolves, leaving Addie as the scapegoat and Val swept into the popular crowd. Fifteen years later, Addie lives alone and Val has found a small measure of success as a weathergirl on the local T.V. station. Addie, caring for a troubled brother and trying the internet dating scene, opens her door to find her long lost best friend, Val, standing there with blood on her sleeve and a horrified expression. When it comes to friendship, some bonds can never be broken. This is a work of literary fiction with romantic elements, and Jennifer Weiner fans won't be let down. This book is unique because it is not only told in first-person point-of-view by Addie, but also third-person by Jordan, and jumps from past to present smoothly, telling the back story in fragments. Targeted to be humorous and heart-breaking, it delivers a punch to your solar plexus that will remain with you long after the book is closed. Very few authors understand the human condition, our responses to stress, and the inner workings of our minds like Jennifer Weiner can. The over-eating, neglect, disappointment, and depression suffered by her characters will leave you in tears and wondering if they are real. The secondary characters were phenomenal adds to the storyline. You'll fall in love with Jordan and all his quirks. The romance elements were sweet and realistic. The plot flowed well and there were no dead spots. I would like to see this targeted not only for adults, but for the young adult market too, as they can learn a lot about the consequences of the choices they make and how much of an impact negativity can have on others. Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner, is a riveting portrayal of friendship, love, family, loyalty, and betrayal. A guaranteed laugh and cry! Kelly Moran, Author and Reviewer
That book was good
Quick, easy read. I like Jennifer Weiner books, but this wasn't one of my favorites.
An OK book by one of my favorite authors.
I was expecting a lot more from this book. The plot was boring and not creative. I was able to guess a lot of what was going to happen in the beginning. There just wasn't much to it. Don't really recommend.
I really connected with this story. Having just passed 10 years out of high school I find myself thinking about people I haven't seen in years and what they are doing now. So reading a story about two friends who had lost touch and have been reconnected was something that really resonated with me. I connected with Addie, the main character. Even though she has made some changes to her life since high school, she is still pretty much the same person she was. She's shy and she lives her life without trying to cause too many ripples. Given the circumstances that surrounded her path to where she is in life at this point, I think that I would have made some of the very same decisions. I didn't like Valerie at the beginning of the story, but as the story progressed she kind of grew on me, as I've known people in similar positions and I almost felt sympathy for her. Even though the story is told from Addie's perspective Valerie is very much the catalyst that keeps the story going. The writing was pretty good. The story jumps between the past and the present and also jumps between a few different locations. While this jumping can sometimes lead to a very disconnected story it was very well executed in this book. The flashbacks help to explain the time gaps between high school and the present. They also help build the story behind Val and Addie. The characters were very believable. The plot was a bit on the crazy side, but after I got to know Valerie I started to think that she's the kind of person that really could get herself into something like this. This one really played with my emotions, as I really wanted to dislike Val but ended up feeling kind of sorry for her. Plus as we learn about Addie I really could let myself become her as I was reading. I even pictured her to be almost like me. The other characters were kind of two-dimensional, but because their importance to the story was limited I think they didn't need to be well-rounded. I really liked this one.
Great book to read on a rainy day or just want to escape to another world. This is the first time I have read one of Jennifer Weiner's books but this book made me a fan.
enjoyable, easy summer read but hated that it was abridged (I almost never pick them if abridged).
A typical Weiner, nice, entertaining, flat characters and utterly predictable. I liked it! (Although I kept wondering why the police would want to spend so much time on a vague crime no one cares about...)
To sum it up in one word. "Boring." This book was so unmemorable...all I can remember was that I was trying hard to finish it...there was no "depth" to the book- it was a little to unbelievable to me...not realistic at all, and not entertaining...perhaps a good read for the beach or light summer reading, but not something that would keep your interest for very long. I was very disappointed since I LOVED the film "In Her Shoes," which is based on one of her works, so I had high hopes for this book, but it just kinda fell flat.
This was better than I thought it was going to be, but that's not saying much. I would never have picked this book out for myself, it was given to me as a gift.I found a lot of the plot to be far-fetched stupid hijinx that no sane person would participate in. I felt the primary characters get the short end of the stick with plot resolution. "Everyone was happy THE END." Really? I don't think so.
Publishing industry professionals in this country declared the Chick Lit genre dead some years ago, forcing hordes of writers to reinvent themselves¿at least on the surface. A novel written in Chick Lit¿s distinctively snarky voice must now call itself women¿s humorous contemporary fiction, or light women¿s fiction, or any combination thereof, as long as the words ¿Chick Lit,¿ so offensively yesterday, are absent. First person point of view, intrinsic to the Chick Lit craze, is no longer acceptable in adult fiction. Unless you¿re Jennifer Weiner.Which is a good thing. Just because the publishing industry begged for Chick Lit, got Chick Lit, got too much Chick Lit, and got sick of Chick Lit all within a decade or so, doesn¿t mean there¿s suddenly a shortage of women readers looking for the fluffy pink beach reads they¿ve known and loved.Best Friends Forever (BFF) still has Weiner¿s funny, everywoman¿s voice, a plot that entertains like a cat zipping around the room after a laser pointer, and characters spiced with a finely balanced combination of angst-that-doesn¿t-take-itself-too-seriously and plausible back-story.Fat Adelaide Downs and ditzy Valerie Alder are the products of normal American families, and by ¿normal,¿ I mean to say ¿highly dysfunctional.¿ As children, Addie and Val bond over their mutual, but unspoken, wish to belong to the other¿s family. Addie is ashamed of her obese mother, who Val sees as the nurturing, supportive woman she is, and Val, with her filthy boys¿ clothes, greasy hair and mossy teeth, somehow hides the fact that her mother is flat-out neglectful, while Addie sees her as glamorous and free-spirited.Was Ms. Weiner somehow privy to my own adolescence, or are there really that many former kids out there suppressing memories of a similar childhood? Stir the BFF characters¿ early lives with an ugly stick, and you¿ve got me and my best friend; we¿ll call her Lesli, because that was her name. Les was a size-16 girl with a strikingly pretty face, whose mother was thin, polished, never-without-a-man, and drove a Trans Am. I was the neglected one with the obese mother, and alright, Les probably never wished she had my mom, but I sure wanted to exchange my hand-me-downs and thrift-store clothes, self-cut hair, and filthy apartment for her designer jeans, thick, waist-length brown hair and germ-free living conditions.I haven¿t seen her in years, but if Les showed up on my doorstep tomorrow needing help because she thought she¿d killed her high school date-rapist in a semi-deliberate hit-and-run, it¿s unlikely I¿d rob a bank and go on the lam with her, like Addie does for Val. Well, they don¿t really rob a bank. Val just thinks they did, but I don¿t want to pepper this review with too many spoilers. Suffice it to say, BFF won¿t disappoint the majority of Ms. Weiner¿s fans. Chick Lit may be D.O.A., but the void has been effectively filled with the exact same product, different name. (Review originally posted to Booksquawk)
At first I wasn't sure what to make Addie and Val. Addie has such a rich interior life and Val seems so shallow. As the book went along I couldn't help but realize it's brilliant. Addie's metamorphosis from a woman who lets her life be decided by easy decisions to one who celebrates life is breathtaking.
I really enjoyed the backstory and character development, but I thought the overall story was a bit weak and unrealistic. Love Weiner's books and her writing style, but this was just an okay one for me.
I liked this book. I wouldn¿t say I loved it like I do some of Weiner¿s other works, but it was enjoyable. Goodreads describes this novel as hilarious and I disagree with that statement. This book was about broken relationships and it was heavy and not humorous.Addie and Valerie are the best of friends until they are torn about by high school shenanigans. After not speaking to each other for over 15 years, the two reunite under interesting circumstances and try to see if the close relationship they once had can be repaired.The novel was very engaging and read quickly. I found it to be well-written and interesting. It did lack a bit of punch. I think that is why the ratings of this novel are so low. I had the sense of something being missing, but not to the point that it caused me to dislike the book.I would recommend it to Weiner fans.
There were several aspects of this book that irked me and I think the biggest was how Jennifer Weiner gave Addie, her main character, binge eating disorder, and then did not address it at all. Valerie, her only friend, though one might argue not best, was shallow at best. The book seemed to be mostly about Addie's tragic family life and how she soothed herself with food and Valerie was a welcome distraction. A rift occurred when the girls were in high school and they parted. Addie stayed in the town, the house, where she grew up and gained more and more weight until she hit bottom and decided to loose weight. We really don't know what happened with Valerie in the intervening years, but we know she decided to attend her high school reunion, where one thing leads to another and she and Addie reunite and end up on the run.A lot of the story is told in flashback - some better than others...Addie and Valerie's trip to Cape Cod stands out as a highlight, but there isn't much as far as depth. The other main character, the police office Jordan serves more as a plot device than actual character and many aspects of his character make him unlikable so when the inevitable happens, we wonder if he was really needed at all or if the story would have been fine focusing on the two women.
Trite and trivial. Poorly developed, unbelievable and with an unlikely ending. On my list as a reminder not to read anything else by this author.
A heart warming story of quiet, beautiful Addie Downs and her best friend, pretty and popular Valerie Adler. This book illustrates a wonderful tale of friendships, love, betrayal, forgiveness, and life. It will make you laugh, make you cry, and revive your soul. You have to read it!Timid Addie Downs was a fat girl, always teased and harassed by her classmates. Her only friend was skinny and outgoing Valerie Adler who's friends with almost everyone. They were best friends, doing everything together, until a horrifying event one night at a typical high school party. The two girls stopped talking to each other, each wallowing in their own self pity. So they grew older, and Addie became a stay-at-home greeting card artist, while Valerie went on and got the job as the local weather girl. Things were fine for both of them, until Valerie came knocking at Addie's door one night after committing a horrible crime. After Valerie confesses what she did, they both decided to put their complicated past aside and run away together. So what will happen if shy Addie Downs and her ex-best friend, wild Valerie Adler, come together once again to go on an adventure of their lifetime? Will their old, rusted friendship evolve into a new one?
From the first chapter this story grabs your attention and doesn't let go as you're taken on this journey with two friends who reunite. Unfortunately for the reader, the second half of the book runs out of steam and never gets its groove back. Good beach read, but certainly not as good as her previous books.
The story itself was pretty entertaining. I found myself laughing several times. The ending was great, and the character presentations were fantastic. However, the book was a little too crude for my liking. Lots of foul language. Just not my cup of tea. If you are able to overlook this, the book is wonderful.
I enjoyed reading this book. It was an easy read, and had many fun twist and turns. I loved Addie's charecter in this book, and I found myself thinking of a girl like that whom I grew up with. I was a little disappointed in the ending, hoping that Weiner would develop Jordan's character just a little bit more to make the ending seem like it really "fit". Overall a great read, and will definitely be reading more of her work!
A story of loss, grief, friendship and hope. Addie and Val have been friends since they were little girls. In senior year their friendship ended. Years later after an accident they were reunited and discovered that they needed eachother all along. A great book to pack along on vaction this summer.
Definitely my least favorite book of hers, but still worth reading...