BOOK REVIEW: All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg 5/5 Stars – BEST OF 2017!


Scrappymags 3 word review: Dead-on-Accurate “adulting” tale (ok I cheated with hyphens)

Shortest Summary Ever: Andrea Bern is now in her 40s, single and child-free. She’s in an ok job, has ok friendships, a general ok life but struggles with emotional attachment (insert dad who died of an overdose = “dad issues”) and thus drifts romantically from man to man, perpetually living in a state of “good enough.” 

What’s good under the hood: Time to get honest. Who HASN’T had a moment of “good enough” in life? Attenberg absolutely NAILED the psyche of many adults today and what it’s really, truly like in the world of “adulting .” The word that comes to mind is – “settling.” Settling for a marriage, kids, a job – whatever it is. I guarantee at some moment everyone reading this has settled for that something. That settling that leaves one trapped in the inertia of the mundane? That feeling is written poignantly (NAILED IT!) in Andrea. 

What Andrea lacks is passion, which she used to find through creating art, but somehow lost, trading in passion for an adult life, feeling uninspired with the day to day, trapped in a ho-hum job. I’ve had THAT job. Ugh. I was good at it, but never felt compelled to do MORE because I didn’t care. Then I left to become a teacher, which is where my passion awoke. That feeling will resonate with readers who have ever experienced THAT job.


On that note, I’m single, child-free and 42 and my demographic is grossly underrepresented in literature today so I was THRILLED to see a non-Bridget Jones type. With that said, I feel I should identify with Andrea. Yet I don’t in many ways. Sure, I can cringe with her dating mishaps and THAT job in the past I didn’t enjoy, but I’ve always had PASSION, something that’s been dormant in Andrea a long time. The book flashes through pieces of Andrea’s life, painting a picture of how she became who she is. How does passion die? When do we shelve the creative parts of ourselves and turn them in for minivans and soccer games, husbands or one-night stands and quick highs or a job we detest but stay because it’s safe? The truth is – she is many people who settle and move through life rather than MAKE life, who view life as something that happens TO them rather than something they shape. Yup, Andrea is no Bridget Jones. She can be cynical. She can be slutty. She might do a line of coke or two.  The enjoyment of the novel is watching Andrea’s journey…

On a personal note, I had a short story published some years ago where I wrote how someone asked me why I scrapbooked because I was “single and didn’t have a family of my own.” Yeah. THAT happened. Andrea made me think of that day. 

What’s bad or made me mad: some people will view Andrea as bitter or cynical yet I don’t see that. I see Andrea as someone who isn’t overly anything – she’s present. But her journey is both admirable and unremarkable at the same time. It’s life. It’s what happens. 

Recommend to: 

  • Singletons will love this for the sheer fact it’s our demographic. And there’s no damsel to be saved. And it’s REAL. Bravo. Thank you thank you thank you.
  • Any and all adults – the theme of settling and not living a dream is easily identifiable.
  • Book clubs will have LOTS to talk about with that chat nugget right there. Likely it will feel like a solid therapy session.

Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for all the times I yelled “YES!” aloud, the warnings from my HOA for all the yelling of “YES!!” from my house, oh and for an advanced copy in exchange for this honest review.

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