‘Adults’ by Emma Jane Unsworth – eARC Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

Deliciously candid and gloriously heartfelt, Adults is the story of one woman learning how to fall back in love with her life. It will remind you that when the world throws you a curve ball (or nine), it may take friendship, gin & tonics or even your mother to bring you back…

Jenny McLaine is an adult. Supposedly. At thirty-five she owns her own house, writes for a cool magazine and has hilarious friends just a message away.

But the thing is:

  • She can’t actually afford her house since her criminally sexy ex-boyfriend Art left
  • Her best friend Kelly is clearly trying to break up with her
  • She’s so frazzled trying to keep up with everything you can practically hear her nerves jangling
  • She spends all day online-stalking women with beautiful lives as her career goes down the drain.

And now her mother has appeared on her doorstep, unbidden, to save the day…

Is Jenny ready to grow up and save herself this time?

My Review

I love the premise of this book. The story of a mid thirties woman named Jenny got caught up in the pitfalls of this social media age and how at thirty five there are certain societal expectations on a woman’s lifestyle choices.

And early on in the read I really liked this. It’s incredibly honest and there is so much in this book that is relevant to how we live now.

It’s incredibly authentic with regard to how as a society people conjure up certain aspects of their lives to appear better on social media. How each Instagram post, each tweet, each like is carefully thought out to create this facade of ‘having our cake and eating it too’. I really liked seeing how Jenny’s online life really ate into the soul of who she was. How almost every thought she had was about controlling her social media narrative. How this mode of thinking infected her attitude to her relationship with her ex boyfriend Art, how it made her neglectful of her best friend Kelly…

The writing is incredibly witty and smart…
But it was almost too witty,
And too smart.

To me the narrative of the book really suffered from a case of too much self-knowing. While this book was incredibly honest, it somehow didn’t feel truthful? I know that’s somewhat of an oxymoron so I guess what I mean is that this book felt forced to me. There was too much emphasis on trying to have witty situations. Even in Jenny’s darker moments this book relied too much on quick humour.

For me the novel suffered from a lack of nuance.

Yes I laughed a lot at the beginning…

But if everything is written to be over-the-top humorous, if every thought or utterance of Jenny’s is designed to be hilarious rather than authentic and truthful then it gets tedious to read. Personally I needed a lot more light and shade. The book was a constant barrage of ‘laugh at me, pay attention to me‘ moments and I found it quite exhausting to read rather than engaging and enjoyable.

If this had not been an ARC I would have DNFd around the 25% mark as I was just finding it too much of a chore to read. But because it was an ARC and I had given a commitment to read it I persisted.

As for the main plot of the book; it felt quite loose to me. I would have liked a little more of a broader storyline rather than just reading about Jenny’s character arc. But sadly all the supporting characters in this book felt either incredibly melodramatic (her mother) or depressingly cliched (her ex Art, the social media star Suzy Brambles). The only character that I did think was remotely well described was Jenny’s best friend Kelly, but even then she suffered from a lack of page time and therefore felt underdeveloped.

Also, I felt that the narrative was structured rather awkwardly. Early on the book felt like a series of seemingly loosely connected vignettes that jumped back and forth time-wise. And even though the ‘vignettes’ began to feel more cohesive by the end I still felt that the time jumping aspect of the narrative was never made to feel all that clear.

Sadly this book was just not to my taste and I can only award it two stars.

An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, The Borough Press, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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6 thoughts on “‘Adults’ by Emma Jane Unsworth – eARC Book Review

  1. I definitely understand what you mean! I feel like I would have the same issues with this one if Jenny doesn’t feel authentic. Yeah, some people use humor to deal with issues but at the same time they do eventually break.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had a similar experience like this with a memoir I read about a month ago. I had to read other books at the same time to keep me interested as it was also an ARC. I feel bad DNFing those 😂 not so much other books though! You explained the need for nuances between light and shade really well and summed up my thoughts on the memoir. Lovely review as always! Jen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I just can’t let myself DNF arcs Jen and really it is silly isn’t it??? Because it really takes all the fun out of reading and sometimes, despite the blurb and other people’s endorsements of the book it just does not work out for us and there should be no shame in that… maybe some day I will feel comfortable to DNF!!

      Liked by 1 person

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