ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth @BoroughPress
My review today is of Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth, a book that provoked quite a reaction in me. It’s published on 30th January by Borough Press. My thanks to Ann Bissell of the Harper Fiction team for sending me my fantastic proof copy of the book.
Jenny is unloved, unemployable and emotionally unfiltered. Her long-suffering friends seem sick of her and whilst her social media portrays her life as a bed of roses, it is more of a dying succulent.
Adults is what you want it to be. A misadventure of maturity, a satire on our age of self-promotion, a tender look at the impossibility of womanhood, a love story, a riot. And Emma Jane Unsworth is the only voice to hear it from. Adults is excruciating, a gut punch of hilarity and a book laden with truth that you will read again and again.
Who else finds the cover of Adults absolutely irresistible? Definitely a case of cover love here. But what about what’s in between?
Jenny McLaine is struggling with life. So much seems to be happening to her: she’s split with her boyfriend, her mother is being her usual annoying self, her best friend doesn’t seem to want to be her best friend anymore, there’s trouble at work. In short, she’s struggling with adulting. I have to say though that Jenny is rather immature a lot of the time so it’s no wonder.
As I started this book I honestly didn’t know if I was going to like it, or rather if I was going to like Jenny. I generally don’t need to like a character to enjoy a book but I found Jenny really provoked a reaction in me. She’s completely self-centred and at one point I actually despised her, I really did. If she had been my friend I’d have dumped her too. But then there was a bit of a sea change, both in my thinking and in the way that Jenny portrayed herself and I started to realise that she was actually very damaged, both by people and by society.
Adults is incredibly current. Jenny is obsessed with social media, in how she is portrayed on there. I think that so many of us in this digital age feel like that. As Jenny’s mother comments to her
‘So let me get this straight’ she says. ‘You’re upset because someone you don’t know might not like a version of you that doesn’t really exist.’
Jenny over thinks everything. Even a simple like is far from simple. In Jenny’s head there are deep likes and not so deep likes. To be honest, I think there’s a little bit of Jenny in me but I hope to God I’m not as bad as her.
From my unsure start I ended up absolutely loving this book. It reminded me of Fleabag in style: very honest, very stark, sometimes cringe-worthy and a little bit crude, definitely funny, and yet despite all of those adjectives, it’s ultimately quite tender when you delve down into Jenny’s true feelings. I got to the end feeling quite hopeful for her. The author has done an amazing job with this book. It’s so well-written, completely addictive and a fantastic read.
Emma Jane Unsworth’s first novel, HUNGRY, THE STARS AND EVERYTHING, won a Betty Trask Award from the Society of Authors and was shortlisted for the Portico Prize for Fiction. Her second novel, ANIMALS, won a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize. ANIMALS was adapted into a film, for which Unsworth wrote the screenplay. ANIMALS the film, starring Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat, premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2019 and was released in the UK later the same year. Unsworth writes essays for various magazines and newspapers. She also writes for television. She is currently adapting ADULTS, her third novel, into a TV series.
Author bio and photo taken from Amazon