A review by Emma Streeton
Jenny McLaine is an adult. Supposedly. At thirty-five she owns her own house, writes for a cool magazine and has hilarious friends just a message away. Sounds like a pretty perfect life right? But the thing is she can’t afford her house since her ex-boyfriend left, her best friend is clearly trying to break up with her and her career is going down the drain without her even realizing it.
Jenny’s major downfall is her obsession with social media. Seeing how many likes and comments she receives is ruining her life. But is Jenny ready to face her addiction? Is Jenny ready to grow up and save herself?
The biggest struggle I had with this book is trying to connect with the protagonist Jenny. She is an egocentric and arrogant character who is very hard to like. She did grow on me as the story progressed but, overall, as someone who is also in their mid-thirties, I am clearly at a very different life stage to Jenny. I struggled to comprehend her total reliance and addiction to social media but I think there are a lot of people out there who this won’t be such a problem for.
Unsworth makes some great and gorgeously written points about the digital age. My favorite being how our monkey minds aren’t wired to deal with the constant onslaught of notifications and comparisons, and the pressure to keep up with everyone else. Towards the end of the novel it slowly dawns on Jenny that she is living in a social media addicted bubble that is costing her everything and offering her very little in return.
‘I have been simultaneously trying to figure out the codes and rituals of a realm, an institution, whilst also trying to present myself as appealing. I feel very, very stretched and thin, like I might almost snap.’
Other people in Jenny’s life, including her mother, see the root of her struggles a lot sooner than she does:
“You wonder why you’re anxious —when you constantly stare at a device that beams nightmares into your eyes.”
To say I did not care for Jenny’s character at all would be a lie. I was championing her to find a way through her troubles and was glad to see her ‘halfway on the way to being a semi-sorted out person’ by the end of the story.
All in all, I have mixed thoughts about Adults but I think it is worth giving it a shot. Although I struggled to relate to Jenny, I am sure there is a younger generation out there that will love this well-written tale and can see it being a hit for many. Personally, it made me think about how much time people spend glued to their phone and the ways this can impact on their mental health. I hope this book inspires people to spend more time unplugged and actually living. Although a little disjointed, this novel has some funny scenes and memorable one liners:
‘When oh when will they create a breathalyzer app that disables your phone when you’re over the limit?’
It also offers some very perceptive observations on today’s society. It will likely tick a lot of boxes for a lot of readers, particularly millennials.
I think perhaps I should have read The Adults. I knew I wanted to! – Editor.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
Format: paperback, 400 pages
Category: Fiction & related items / Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)