The Interestings was suggested to me by a friend. I wouldn't have found this book otherwise, but the short description intrigued me. It was about a group of friends and their lives taking place in the backdrop of New York City.
Living in the city has been something that I have aspired to since I was 15 or so, much like the main character of the book. Once high school rolls around, you start to really consider the possibilities of your life after childhood.
The main character basically renounced her family, writing them off as too ordinary. She tried to assimilate with her new, more sophisticated friends who all had zip codes in New York City. She met them through summer camp, and would constantly pine to be with her friends. This is the group of friends that she remains close to throughout her life; the camp would remain a constant nostalgia woven throughout the book.
So what does the book talk about?
Dreams Not Achieved
The summer camp is one for artistic students, whether their interests be in comedy, dance, animation, or something else. Dreams always seem so tangible in your mind, but when has anything you predicted ever come true? It's very easy to imagine how successful you will become, but the actual execution on the journey is far more complicated.
Talent, ambition, and perseverance go a long way towards achieving dreams. But even then sometimes it's not enough. It's incredible much of a role luck plays in success, yet people hardly address it. Society attributes success to the attributes of successful people (confusing sentence eh?). Basically, we glorify people and their successes and underestimate how important their lucky break was. Due to survivorship bias, we hear a lot less about failures and how their lucky breaks never came.
Only one of the characters achieves his full potential in the book, but even then he is hampered by unresolved issues.
The Harsh Realities of Life
We experience the ups and downs of our own lives, but only get a glimpse of the highlights of others. No matter how happy and satisfied you think someone is, there's a voice in their head that's nagging them just as much as yours. They may be vastly different thoughts, but they remain worries nonetheless.
Perfection doesn't exist. Whatever rosy picture you have painted of the future, remember to dial it back a few notches. There are exceptions to the case when people become especially lucky; but those are rare and can't be counted on. It's important to find happiness in the small victories in life.
I've painted a pretty glum picture of this book, but it's really not that. It's just the reality that we live in. I liked the book a lot, not necessarily because of the characters, but because of how realistic the characters seemed. Everyone has their own stories, with ups and downs; each story is interesting and ordinary at the same time.
The book is ultimately about the anchor that friendship provides. Whether you become brainwashed by a cult or struggle professionally, friends are the people who provide you with a helping hand to get unstuck.
Luck is extremely circumstantial. The family you're born into is either indicative of your good luck or bad luck. But friends, those you can pick. You're not bound to friends who drag you down. You can't pick your family, but you can pick your friends.