All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg: A Review

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When I saw that All Grown Up was one of the March Book of the Month club selections, I wanted to make sure that I got a chance to read it.  The cover describes a funny account of an emerging adult who is trying to find her place in the world.  This is a coming-of-age novel but with a twist.  The growing up being done is the weird age between officially becoming an adult at the age of eighteen and when one reaches middle age and really feels like a grown up at around the age of forty.  Since I am actually in this age group, I thought that I may enjoy the book. 

This book follows Andrea from the time that she drops out of graduate school until she is forty.  She drinks too much, she dabbles in drugs, and she has too many unhealthy relationships with men.  She grew up in a dysfunctional family where her father died of a heroin overdose and her mother was only able to cope with her husband’s death by inviting random men into their home and dedicating her life to a myriad of social causes.  Andrea is then left ill-prepared when her passion of art doesn’t turn into a career and her brother and sister-in-law struggle after the birth of a terminally ill child. 

This book just didn’t work for me.  The reviews credited this book with being funny but I found it to be sad more than anything.  Andrea’s constant drinking, drug abuse and inability to connect with other people made reading this book feel dark and depressing.  While I don’t feel that an author must stick to a chronological order when telling a story, this story jumped all over the place and repeated parts of the story in a frustrating way.  Andrea was not likeable or complex.   In fact, most of the characters were not likable or complex.  My favorite character in the book was a supporting one-Greta.  Greta had varying emotions and seemed like a decent person, in addition to being interesting.  Too bad that the book wasn’t about Greta.  Andrea was obnoxious and immature.  Even though this novel spans quite a few years, I felt as if Andrea did not grow or develop, at all.  She was the same person at 39 that she was at 26 with the same voice and the same problems.  This was a fast read but I just didn’t enjoy it.  I think that a frequent reader of Young Adult fiction would like this novel better, even though most of the characters were post-college adults.  While the age of the characters and the theme of leaving school and trying to find a job would most likely put this in the New Adult fiction category, Andrea acted more like the characters in a YA novel would and, therefore, if I were to recommend this book to someone it would be someone who enjoys YA fiction.


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Reviews of books like this one:
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
Leave Me by Gayle Forman
City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

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