Saturday, May 16, 2015

Book Review: "The Grown Ups" by Robin Antalek

Relationships. Can't live without 'em, can't, well...

The summer of Sam Turner's 15th year was an eventful one. Spending time with his group of childhood friends, he suddenly catches the interest of Suzie Epstein, and they begin a romantic relationship that they keep hidden from their friends, even though the hookups of others are known among them. But as quickly as it begins, their relationship ends when Suzie's estranged parents decide to give their marriage another try and move the family to another city. And then Sam suffers another blow, when his mother decides to leave his husband and move away.

In the wake of Suzie's abrupt departure and the dissolution of his family, Sam finds himself drawn into a relationship with Suzie's best friend, Bella. Their relationship continues into college, but while Sam feels strongly for Bella, he can't seem to give her the full commitment she desires—and he can't seem to give that commitment to anything in his life, which also causes trouble in his relationships with his father and older brother. He finds himself drifting, from job to job, relationship to relationship, without feeling any pull to put down roots.

Suzie left her old life and her old friends behind, mostly out of embarrassment for the way her parents' marriage affected the lives of so many. She becomes the caretaker for her younger brothers and her alcoholic mother, and works hard to graduate high school one year early, so she can start anew. And she never thinks she'll be able to have a relationship that isn't dysfunctional, until, surprisingly, she connects with Sam's older brother Michael.

The Grown Ups follows Sam, Bella, and Suzie over a decade, as they weather romantic, professional, and familial crises. Robin Antalek does a terrific job weaving their stories, and even though her characters aren't completely likeable, their lives are tremendously compelling. Even though what happens in this book is more commonplace than unique, I still really enjoyed this book, and found it emotionally provoking at times as well. This is a book about all types of relationships—romantic ones, parent-child, siblings, and of course, friendships—and at least one of the relationships in the book may seem familiar to you.

"She could feel the world that Mindy was talking about pressing in on all sides, and then the crazy crooked line that ran from her mother to Sam. They had known each other all their lives. They were in each other's DNA. This place was all she had ever known."

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