Grown Ups: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

This book is so good it’s giving me anxiety attacks. Jenny has a lot going – break ups, break downs, digital obsessions, maternal intrusions, maybe even a little growing up, and all of it rudely intruding from outside the edges of her phone’s screen. Told in a whirlwind of texts, unsent emails, Instagram comments, and Jenny’s mumbling, razor-tongued ruminations, which range from deadpan riffing to screaming-in-a-pillow angry crying, this is a sweaty palms, grinding teeth, visceral experience that’ll have you doing that taken-aback-laugh-rage-shaking thing – in a good way, I swear!

— Chris Lee

The anxiety is REAL. This book started out feeling like a phone-crazed Black Mirror episode but quickly turned into a mother-daughter relationship evaluation in the midst of a personal crisis. Jenny’s in her mid-thirties and wants desperately to actually live the life she presents on social media, but instead is spiraling into a mind-numbing, constant anxiety that sinks further when her extroverted, dare I say ridiculous, “psychic” mother decides to live with her. I was worried this book would be just another “the younger generation and those phones!” where our protagonist learns some kind of unplugging lesson, but it is so much deeper. Jenny deals with real problems women face, including the struggles of both motherhood and infertility, largely through her frantic yet comedic e-mails, social media posts, and inner monologues. I especially appreciated how it deals with infertility, as reproduction is so often considered a woman-defining ability, making it a silent struggle not often discussed. I cannot stress enough how well this book handles the stigmas and struggles that women face, including female relationships that are much more than catty bickering. Grown Ups makes you want to hug your best friends and call your mother.

— Madi Hill

Emma Jane Unsworth's Grown Ups is a quirky, she's-already-come-of-age novel with a cast of characters that you can't stand and can't believe you so clearly identify with. Reminiscent of Black Mirror's “Nosedive,” Jenny McClaine's perfectly posh social media feeds would have you believing anything but the truth - that is, her life is an actual bona fide mess, her relationship of nearly a decade just crashed & burned, and her neurotic, new age mama is moving in. Through Jenny's texts, emails, email drafts, and social media messages, Unsworth gifts her readers with a critique of the keep-scrolling-til-the-dopamine-hits culture of the 21st century that has every woman you know feeling like there's no damn way to keep up. Initially, more than a few of Jenny's actions come across as deplorable, but the deeper we dive into her psyche, the more understandable, and frankly, 100% relatable, she becomes. I want to give this book to all of the women I know, and I dare them to read it without checking their phone every couple of pages. #obsessed

— Kira McGrigg

Jenny McLaine's life is perfectly instagrammable. A nice photograph, with the right filter, and a witty caption, with the perfect amount of "!'s" and emojis. Well, most of her life anyways - she still has to deal with her complicated relationship with her ex-boyfriend, her crumbling friendships, her dying job, and worst of all, her mother. Grown Ups is a hilarious and scarily relatable novel that explores the complicated way that social media has begun to influence us and our IRL relationships. These characters and their antics made me laugh-out-loud, cringe, and shudder in horror when I saw myself reflected in them. Jenny and just about everyone else in this book seriously suck. But sometimes, so do we all, and maybe if we try a little harder, and post a little less, that can be okay. Unsworth tosses the falling tree and the forest aside and asks the question, "if I don't post about it did it really matter? And what happens if no one cares?"

— Parker Jensen

May 2020 Indie Next List

Grown Ups is told with humor and angst (both causing laughter and anxiety) in traditional prose supplemented with emails, texts, and social media columns and comments — much like our lives today. Jenny is living in London and tethered to her Instagram as her real life is slightly falling apart. This book is filled with fantastic writing and insights relevant to the modern balance of social media life with real life. I don’t want to say too much more, other than I will miss Jenny now that I’ve finished reading.”
— Melissa Summers, Main Street Books (NC), Davidson, NC


[E]ssential reading for our dismal times.” —The Wall Street Journal
One of Bustle’s “Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2020”
Good Housekeeping’s “25 New Fall Books You Have to Read This Season”
Lit Hub’s “Most Anticipated Books of 2020”

Fleabag meets Conversations with Friends in this brutally honest, observant, original novel about a woman going through a breakup…but really having more of a breakdown.

Jenny McLaine’s life is falling apart. Her friendships are flagging. Her body has failed her. She’s just lost her column at The Foof because she isn’t the fierce voice new feminism needs. Her ex has gotten together with another woman. And worst of all: Jenny’s mother is about to move in. Having left home at eighteen to remake herself as a self-sufficient millennial, Jenny is now in her thirties and nothing is as she thought it would be. Least of all adulthood.

Told in live-wire prose, texts, emails, script dialogue, and social media messages, Grown Ups is a neurotic dramedy of 21st-century manners for the digital age. It reckons with what it means to exist in a woman’s body: to sing and dance and work and mother and sparkle and equalize and not complain and be beautiful and love your imperfections and stay strong and show your vulnerability and bake and box…

But, despite our impossible expectations of women, Emma Jane Unsworth never lets Jenny off the hook. Jenny’s life is falling apart at her own hands and whether or not she has help from her mother or her friends, Jenny is the only one who will be able to pick up the pieces and learn how to, more or less, grow up. Or will she?

About the Author

Emma Jane Unsworth has written two award-winning novels: Hungry, the Stars and Everything and Animals. She wrote the screenplay of Animals and the film, directed by Sophie Hyde and starring Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat, premiered at Sundance 2019 and was released in the UK later that year. She regularly writes essays for newspapers and magazines, including The Guardian Weekend. She also writes for television. 

Praise For…

"Sharp and original, Jenny’s story nails the challenges of adulting in the age of Instagram and evolves into a tender tale of letting those who love you help you find yourself."

"By delving into the complicated psyche of a woman we might call “very online,” Grown Ups shows us there is hope to be found. Just maybe not in the place we’re always looking."
The New York Times Book Review

“[Jenny’s] voice is so immediately engaging—and her perspective so zanily acute . . . But this oddly charming narrative is far more than a feast of one-liners. . . . In Grown Ups, self-inflating targets such as mindfulness, artiness and new-manliness are sparingly deployed and exquisitely punctured while the overall mood is subtly textured and the central plot almost quaintly plain . . . [E]ssential reading for our dismal times.”
The Wall Street Journal 

"One of the most anticipated books of 2020... An epistolary novel for the modern era, Grown Ups will resonate with late-blooming and struggling-to-launch Millennials everywhere.”

“Too funny, too clever, satisfyingly satirical, and with just the right amount of Zodiac chat, Grown Ups is incredible.”
–Candice Carty-Williams, author of Queenie

“So funny, arch, and tender, this novel shows what really goes on beneath the shiny surface of our online lives. A must-read for anyone who has ever wondered what it means to be a daughter, a friend, or a mother, when sometimes you don't even know how to be yourself.”
–Jessie Burton, New York Times bestselling author of The Miniaturist

“Dazzling observations and snarky one-liners, with a heroine who is vulnerable, funny, intelligent, and feels so real. I wish I'd written it!”
–Marian Keyes, internationally bestselling author of Anybody Out There?

“This book made me guffaw and took my breath away in equal, knocks-you-sideways measure. Confronting, heartbreaking, and hilarious—it is both a timely parable for modern anxiety as well as a timeless examination of men, women, sex, desire, friendship, family and the female psyche. I completely and utterly adored it.”
–Dolly Alderton, internationally bestselling author of Everything I Know About Love

“Emma's insight into the complexities of thirtysomething womanhood in a time of social media floored me. I've never felt so seen by a book. Generous, tender, and moving—a must-read.”
–Laura Jane Williams, author of Our Stop

"A sharp, funny tale of trying to be yourself in the age of Instagram."
The Times (UK)

"Jenny McLaine is having something of a crisis when we meet her. This witty novel could not be more spot on for our day and age, told through texts, emails and social media posts as Jenny navigates floundering friendships, career failures and best of all, living again with her mother in her 30s."
Newsweek, "40 Must-Read Fiction and Nonfiction Books to Savor This Spring" 

“Jenny’s voice is strong, sharp, occasionally disgusting, and alternately charming and horrifying as she narrates every one of her stumbles through life. A bracing look at a breakdown that’s sometimes difficult to read but always completely captivating.”
Kirkus Reviews

"Emma Jane Unsworth’s latest is chatty satire on our worst online behaviors. For fans of Fleabag." 
Marie Claire

"If you loved Fleabag as much as I did, this novel will take you 'across the pond' and fill you with the deep satisfaction that only dry, snarky humor can. Add some feminist themes, some clever observations about relationships, and you’ve got all you need for a girls’ night out from your own living room — except the wine!"
–Wendy Walker

“Unsworth’s wise and invigorating novel captures something essential in the ways Jenny rules, and is ruled by, her digital self; readers will be hooked.” 

"[A] blistering tragicomic send-up of a life documented on Instagram.... Emails, internet searches, online posts, and even a screenplay comprise the varied and playful forms through which Jenny’s surprisingly poignant drama unfolds. Though directed squarely at millennials, Jenny’s stumbling journey toward authenticity will resonate with anyone who’s taken the bold, hard step of assessing their life without any filters."
Publishers Weekly

Grown Ups is being described as ‘Fleabag meets Conversations with Friends’ and also ‘a neurotic dramedy of 21st-century manners for the digital age,’ which are pretty much the same thing, the same thing being just what I want to read when I need to get away from the internet, and/or myself, and/or all my friends.”
Lit Hub, "Most Anticipated Books of 2020"

"[C]aptures the millennial struggle with humor and honesty."
PopSugar, "26 Incredible New Books Coming Your Way This August"

“Fans of Fleabag will love this hysterical account of a thirtysomething woman dealing with a rocky love life, an eccentric mother, and a slight (OK, significant) social media obsession. It's irreverent, it's sharp, and it will sneak up on your heart when you're busy giggling.”
Good Housekeeping, “25 New Fall Books You Have to Read This Season”

Product Details
ISBN: 9781982141936
ISBN-10: 198214193X
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication Date: August 18th, 2020
Pages: 352
Language: English