Fleabag meets Conversations with Friends in this brutally honest, observant, original novel about a woman going through a breakup…but really having more of a breakdown.
Jenny McLaine’s life is falling apart. Her friendships are flagging. Her body has failed her. She’s just lost her column at The Foof because she isn’t the fierce voice new feminism needs. Her ex has gotten together with another woman. And worst of all: Jenny’s mother is about to move in. Having left home at eighteen to remake herself as a self-sufficient millennial, Jenny is now in her thirties and nothing is as she thought it would be. Least of all adulthood.
Told in live-wire prose, texts, emails, script dialogue, and social media messages, Grown Ups is a neurotic dramedy of 21st-century manners for the digital age. It reckons with what it means to exist in a woman’s body: to sing and dance and work and mother and sparkle and equalize and not complain and be beautiful and love your imperfections and stay strong and show your vulnerability and bake and box…
But, despite our impossible expectations of women, Emma Jane Unsworth never lets Jenny off the hook. Jenny’s life is falling apart at her own hands and whether or not she has help from her mother or her friends, Jenny is the only one who will be able to pick up the pieces and learn how to, more or less, grow up. Or will she?
Jenny McLaine lives her life through the lens of social media – and it’s a disaster. She’s on the verge of losing her job, she broke up with her boyfriend and her mother just moved into her flat. Her existence couldn’t get any worse. But if she can appear to have it all together online, that’s all that matters.
She quantifies success in followers and unfollowers while true happiness slips even further away. It’s going to take an intervention of epic proportions for her band of mad friends to convince her to put down the phone and see the wild beauty of the real world. Because they know for Jenny, the road to growing up is going to be a bumpy one.
This often happens. I ponder the words so long, thinking how they might be received, wondering if they could be better, that they lose all their original momentum. I get stage fright. The rest of the world has fallen away around this small square of existence. It’s like that bit in Alien 3 where Ripley says to the alien: You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else. I used to think it was about motherhood. Now I know it’s about social media.
Grown Ups is a hard look at what it’s like to be an adult in the age of social media. Jenny McLaine is far from being a typical charming heroine. Her inner monologues are tedious at times and completely self-absorbed in others. I found myself wishing that someone would pull her aside and just scream “Wake Up!” But that’s really what this book is all about.
Emma Jane Unsworth doesn’t pull any punches with her writing style. She’s frank. Perhaps even to the point of making the book challenging to read. Even still, I found real substance in female friendships forged by each of the characters. It's their wit and never-ending encouragement that ends up saving the day. Both for Jenny and for me….