Amazon Exclusive: Aryn Kyle Reviews The Adults
Aryn Kyle is the author of Boys and Girls Like You and Me and The God of Animals.
While I was reading this novel, I found myself carrying it around with me so that I could read bits of it aloud to my friends. "Listen to this line," I would tell them. "Listen to this paragraph." Alison Espach doesn’t just understand the thrills and terrors and confusion that make up that rocky, winding path between childhood and adulthood, but she manages to convey them with such perfect pitch, such authenticity and humor and tenderness, that I found myself returning to passages again and again, simply for the pleasure of reading her prose. "Listen to the way she describes this scene," I told my friends. "Listen to the way she starts this chapter." "Listen to the way she ends it."
The Adults follows Emily Vidal, a sharp-eyed but sensitive girl, from early adolescence into early adulthood. As the novel opens, the cozy world of Emily’s affluent Connecticut upbringing begins to simultaneously dissolve and expand with the divorce of her parents. While her mother and father struggle to restructure their lives without each other, Emily is left to navigate her increasingly complicated world mostly on her own.
Coming-of-age stories seem to be a dime a dozen, maybe because everybody has one: We all grow up. Well, we try.
What makes The Adults unique is also, I believe, what makes it universal: The book froths with the frenetic energy of adolescence, the giddiness and the fear, the nastiness and vulnerability, the humor so deftly juxtaposed with the heartbreak that within the span of a single paragraph I would find myself laughing out loud, then aching with sadness.
There’s a fearlessness about Espach’s writing, an authority that makes this novel, once started, almost impossible to put down. The real accomplishment of The Adults, however, is not the unflinching insights or the razor-edged prose, but the underlying tenderness Espach conveys for her characters. These are deeply flawed and wounded people, characters that might, in less capable hands, be difficult to like and easy to judge. But through small moments and brief encounters, Espach expertly portrays the vast complexities of all her characters, making them loveable even when they’re not especially likable.
This is an honest and brutally funny novel about choices and mistakes, acceptance and forgiveness, about the people we love and the people we leave as we pass from childhood into adulthood. Whatever that might be.
Photo Credit: Miriam Berkley
From Publishers Weekly
In Espach's charming coming-of-age debut, 14-year-old Emily Vidal's life begins to veer off course at her father's 50th birthday party when he announces that he and her mother are divorcing. The birthday night ends with dad kissing the neighbor, Mrs. Resnick, in the woods, where Emily and Mrs. Resnick's son, Mark, discover them. The disorienting discoveries continue: Mark's ailing father commits suicide, and Mrs. Resnick is pregnant with Emily's dad's baby. With dad off to Prague and her mother undone by the affair and hitting the bottle, Emily loses faith in all the adults around her, even as she is becoming one of them. Emily starts an affair with an English teacher 10 years her senior, mostly to see how far she can go, which turns out to be pretty far. She and the teacher, Jonathan, who leaves teaching to become a lawyer, return to each other again and again as Emily graduates from college and moves to Prague to be with her father. Espach perfects the snarky, postironic deadpan of the 1990s and teenagers everywhere, and her ear for modern speech and eye for fresh detail transform a familiar story into an education in what it means to be a grown-up. (Apr.)
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