Addie Downs and Valerie Adler became BFFs when they were both 9. Then something happened. And, as it goes with so many best friends, it was TTYN — talk to you never.
Jennifer Weiner introduces us to the lonely, single Addie in her newest exploration of women, friendship, relationships and the random emotions of life in “Best Friends Forever.”
Addie, who lives in her parents’ house and takes care of her damaged brother, searches for love on the Internet. Then, she gets an unexpected late night visit from her former childhood friend, Valerie, who needs Addie’s help because Valerie may have seriously injured a former school classmate at their high school reunion. Unlike Addie, Valerie has built a successful career as a TV weather reporter.
Addie’s parents have both died and her brother has a brain injury. She was very overweight until recently. (Weight, a problem that has challenged the author, is a recurring theme in Weiner’s books from her very first, “Good in Bed.”) Addie was made fun of so much as a child that she’s isolated herself as an adult.
Weiner knows how to create characters that make you care about them. She mastered this from the get-go with “Good in Bed.” There, lead character, Cannie Shapiro, was so likable she made a cameo in Weiner’s second book as a wink to readers. And last year, Weiner published a sequel to Cannie’s story called, “Certain Girls.”
Addie Downs is similar to Cannie Shapiro in that she’s got self-esteem issues, and you want her to be OK. Valerie Adler is just the opposite: She’s self-absorbed, flighty, and where she’s intended to be quirky she’s annoying.
Once back in Addie’s life, the two women leave town to figure out what happened. They again elevate each other to best friend status in a way that feels superficial, insincere and silly. Meanwhile, a detective investigating the case pieces together details about Addie’s life and finds himself falling for her.
The book leaves you feeling as though Weiner thought her first draft was too long so she highlighted random chunks of detail and hit the delete button. There are conclusions that seem unnatural and poorly developed secondary characters.
While Weiner’s writing has heart, it falls flat and doesn’t measure up to her previous works. She can do better. Much better.
Sadly, the plot doesn’t pull you in the way “Good in Bed” and “In Her Shoes” do, and one endearing character can’t save the story.