Wednesday 11 March 2020

Book Review: Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth.

Product details:
Publisher: The Borough Press.
Hardcover, 400 pages.
Release date: February 20th 2020.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

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?

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 living the dream. At thirty-five, she is a property-owning, single-lady-about-town, with a pretty cool job as a writer for FOOF - an online feminist magazine. But that’s not the dream I’m talking about. No – Jenny is living the Instagram dream. Her real life, though it looks good on paper – and even better with the right Instagram filter – is something of a mess.  Jenny’s single lady status is due to a recent split with her live-in boyfriend of seven years, a photographer named Art, while her status as a property owner is on shaky ground due to the fact that she no longer has someone with which to split the bills.  Still, if you were to take a look at Jenny’s painstakingly crafted grid, you wouldn’t know any of this. It’s not like Jenny’s Instagram dream is problem free – the algorithm is a constant worry and her Instagram idol Suzy Brambles still hasn’t liked any of her posts– but Jenny can deal with that. As long as she doesn’t have to deal with her actual real life problems, Jenny can deal with almost anything.

First impressions count and I’m sorry to say that my first impression of Jenny McLaine was not a good one.  The opening chapter of Adults sees Jenny obsess over an Instagram post of a croissant – to hashtag or not to hashtag – to the point of tears. I mean, seriously, this thing with the croissant went on for a whole chapter and, in the end, Jenny didn’t even eat the croissant. She just got it for the 'gram. While this opening chapter serves to show that Jenny has much bigger problems than an unhealthy obsession with Instagram, I have to admit that I found it a chore to read. Even though I’m not all that much older than Jenny, I couldn’t relate to her at all. I rolled my eyes at her antics a number of times. I just found her entire existence to be so vacuous. Does anybody – who is not a professional ‘influencer’ – really invest this much time in social media? Have we seriously come to the point where people measure their self-worth in Instagram likes? I hope not.

While Jenny has problems, she’s not without a support network, including her mother, a vivacious, wonderfully drawn character, and her best friend Kelly, a single mother, who listens to Jenny’s problems, while never speaking of her own. That’s because Jenny doesn’t want to hear Kelly’s problems. She only ever wants to talk about herself. Her problems. But not her real problems. Just inane ‘problems’ like whether or not her croissant requires a hashtag. While it’s clear that Jenny’s Instagram obsession serves as a ‘real life’ avoidance tactic, this knowledge doesn’t make her any more likeable. Jenny also has an annoying habit whereby, instead of confronting an issue head on, or you know, solving a problem by talking face to face, she composes emails to those she takes issue with, many, many emails, which she never sends. Seriously, Jenny, you’re too old for this.

Underneath it all, there is an inkling of the actual, functioning person Jenny used to be before her life took a downward turn. Through flashbacks, we bear witness to incidents where Jenny stood up, spoke up, and did the right thing. We see that, once upon a time, Jenny used to care, not just about herself - about other people too. But that was before everything went wrong in her life. And I get it. I get that real life can be ugly and that the right Instagram filter can make everything seem better – if only temporarily. I get that. I also get that there is more to Jenny than her Instagram self. I get that she’s been knocked down and that she can’t quite find the strength to get back up. I get it. But still. I can’t say I ever warmed to Jenny. Or to this book.  Sorry, Jenny, I tried, but just can’t bring myself to give you a ‘like.’

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