Friday, May 15, 2015

Review: The Grown-Ups by Robin Antalek

When you think back to your teenaged self and your group of friends, can you remember the times you felt as if you were already grown up, as if you already knew what the world meant and how life worked? I sure can. But if you are a bit distant from those years, or watching them from the vantage point of a parent, you can see how jaded but na├»ve you, or your children, are about real life. And you know there's not really one defining moment where you become forever an adult, that growing up is a long process done in fits and starts and that what once looked like a definitive thing might, in fact, be an eternal process. Robin Antalek's new novel, The Grown Ups, shows this coming of age and dawning understanding about the nature of change and growth very well.

Opening the summer they are fifteen, the novel follows Sam, Suzie, and Bella over a fifteen year span. Suzie's life is falling apart, with her mother no longer able to turn a blind eye to her father's philandering. Sam is less concerned with what all of the neighborhood infidelities mean and more with just what he and Suzie are up to in her basement rec room and whether or not they qualify as boyfriend and girlfriend. In fact, his own mother will leave their family this same summer, just as Suzie's family leaves town for a fresh start. Bella's mother is an invalid and Bella is Suzie's best friend.  In the wake of Suzie's move and subsequent complete disappearance from the larger group of neighborhood friends, Bella will find that Sam is her own first love, even if she is not his. As each of the three move through the years, learning how to navigate the shoals of impending adulthood, college, relationships, family crises, and eventually the decline and aging of parents, they come to a burgeoning understanding of the larger things at play in their lives and families. They come together and grow apart, waxing and waning in each others' lives and thoughts through the years.

The novel is a snapshot of life for three people, each of whom is shaped by their life, experiences, and hard won wisdom as they take different paths and different timelines toward the elusive concept of adulthood. The three of them, Sam, Suzie, and Bella, are inextricably intertwined, even when they are not speaking to each other because of distance or circumstance. Their bond is indelible. Told in chapters from alternating perspectives, there are jumps in the timeline that allow for moments, large and small, to build the picture of their growth and change. The characters are likable and Antalek has done a good job capturing not only their confused teenaged voices but also the maturation of their voices as their lives and experiences mold them into the people they've become by the end of the story. There are no big cataclysms or pyrotechnics here, it's just a steady, well done, and engaging slice of life bildungsroman.

For more information on Robin Antalek and the book, visit her webpage, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Instagram or Tumblr. For others' opinions on the book, check it out on Amazon.

Thanks to the publisher and BookSparks PR for sending me a copy of the book for review.

1 comment:

  1. This one just didn't resonate with me, but I knew that it had potential for lots of others to enjoy. I'm glad to see that you are one that liked it.


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