“Are you a grown-up or a kid?”
While my vanity was flattered (that night cream is working?!), I had no idea how to answer him. I mean, of course I’m an adult—otherwise I’d so still be getting those Conehead sundaes at Friendly’s—but I’m always faced with that alarming feeling of looking around for the grown-ups for the answers and realizing, shoot. I am one. That feeling is pretty much the crux of the fantastic new Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus novel, How to Be a Grown-Up, which is one of the many reasons I loved it so gosh darned much.
(If you’re wondering how my story resolved itself, I told the little philosopher that I’m a grown-up, but younger than his mom, then I gave him a cookie, which might have been what he was after all along.)
How to Be a Grown-Up tells the story of Rory McGovern, a forty-one-year-old mom of two who is married to her former teen heartthrob of a crush, Blake.
::::Giving myself a moment to think about what life would have been like had I married Jordan Knight or Zack Morris::::
Ahem. Thank you for that.
When Blake’s acting career faces a roadblock, he dives into a pre-midlife crisis, deciding to “take a break” from parenting and marriage. With two expensive kids and an MIA spouse, Rory takes a job at a startup company run by two twenty-somethings fresh out of B-school—one who seems allergic to anything with sleeves, one who is constantly fighting off some kind of bug. Between trying to salvage her marriage, trying to keep her kids in one piece, and trying to understand the indecipherable language of her new pretentious company, Rory’s life becomes a complete juggling act—reminding us all that even though grown-up-ing doesn’t come with an instruction manual, even though we usually have no clue what we’re doing, sometimes, when we least expect it, we discover that we’re not doing such a bad job of it after all.
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus have been favorites of mine since their famous Nan uncovered that spy-cam infested teddy bear in The Nanny Diaries, and I’ve devoured each of their books since then. Their heroines are always relatable, their writing hilarious and heartfelt. How to Be a Grown-Up is no exception; in fact, it might be their best yet. I absolutely adored Rory. I wanted to hug her as she tried not to kill her incompetent intern. I wanted to tell her it was okay when she made a choice or two that maybe she shouldn’t have. Now, after finishing the book, I still want to pick up the phone and invite her and her two totally awesome friends, Claire and Jessica, out for tea and a Chris Hemsworth movie. (Because you know Chris would never “take a break” from his responsibilities.) How to Be a Grown-Up hooked me from the first page with its unforgettable characters and poignancy, and its one-liners had me laughing out loud in public. (And you know what? I wasn’t even embarrassed, because, as a grown-up, I’ve learned to stop caring what other people think. Mostly.)
Emma and Nicola capture everything that is confusing, complicated, impossible and yet kind of wonderful about adulthood. If you’ve ever felt that way, or if you’re just in the mood to hang out with some really great characters, I highly recommend How to Be a Grown-Up. Just be prepared to ignore your grown-up responsibilities for however long it takes you to read the book, because you will not be able to put this fantastic novel down.