‘The Adults’ by Alison Espach

Unwittingly, I’ve had a bit of a burst on stories centred in New England, America. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m quite partial to a particular mix of Connecticut preppiness and wild Nantucket coastline.

The Adults by Alison Espach is a story about Emily Vidal, an average teenager who becomes involved in a questionable relationship with an ‘adult’.

The story is told as a series of episodes in Emily’s life. The choice of these settings is seemingly insignificant – her father’s 50th birthday party, a biology class – yet they are used as the backdrop for bigger issues including the breakdown of Emily’s parent’s marriage, peer pressure, suicide, Emily’s growing sexuality and so forth.

There’s a really good cast of characters (just waiting to be put on film, I suspect) including Emily’s best friend, Janice, who she alternately worships and despises, as one does with ‘best friends’ in high school. Emily’s mother is also a fabulous example of the suburban-housewife- ‘keeping up appearances’-whilst-having- a- nervous- breakdown type of character.

Espach has nailed tween awkwardness and teen angst with throwaway descriptions that speak volumes –

In relation to Emily’s parents: “I knew our lives were just beginning and that their lives were ending, and how strange it seems to me now that this was a form of leverage.”

“Human Fart had been Ernest Bingley’s new nickname since he farted the previous week doing sit-ups in gym. When I heard it, I was saddened and relieved all at the same time. It had to happen to someone eventually, and I was glad it wasn’t me, but poor Ernest, even though Ernest would eventually get laid on prom night, go to Columbia, and have a son who invented an electric bike that powered itself off its own energy, but still.”

“Mark took the lead. I was glad when Mark walked ahead of me, as my whole life became embarrassing around him now.”

“…while my father fell further away from us, sequestered in the basement with a phone and a new computer that virtually connected him to any part of the world he wanted, except the upstairs of our house.”

My only criticism is that Emily didn’t come across as heartfelt by the end of the book. At the beginning, the story is filled with lush and witty detail –

“My mother seemed so invested in the idea of Mr.Resnick’s suicide and all the tradition that surrounded death – flowers and lasagna platters and phone calls and jewelry so dull it wouldn’t offend – yet couldn’t bring herself to cry.”

By the end, it was as if Espach was just wanted to finish the story.

Read this book with a ‘bittersweet’ slice of Lemon Meringue Pie.

3/5 (but hovering close to a 4)

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