By: Robin Antalek
Releasing January 27th, 2015
From Robin Antalek, author of The Summer We Fell Apart, comes an evocative and emotionally resonant coming-of-age novel involving three friends who explore what it means to be happy, what it means to grow up, and the difficulties in doing both together. Spanning over a decade, and told in alternating voices, The Grown Ups explores the indelible bonds between friends and family and the challenges that threaten to divide them. It is the addictive and moving story of these old friends who wind up confronting their past in order to find happiness in their adult lives that make this novel an anticipated winter release.
Sam Turner, the summer he turns 15, feels lucky enough to enjoy the unexpected attention of his friend Suzie Epstein, even though it’s only a few secret months. For reasons Sam doesn’t entirely understand—and will never question—the budding relationship is kept hidden from their close circle of friends. But before their summer tans can even start to fade, Sam’s world unexpectedly shatters twice: Suzie’s parents are moving away to save their marriage, and his own mother has suddenly left the house, leaving Sam’s father alone to raise two sons.
Watching as her parents’ marital troubles escalate, Suzie Epstein takes on the responsibility of raising her two younger brothers while simultaneously planning an early escape to college to seek independence. Though she occasionally thinks of Sam, it’s her oldest friend Bella Spade she finds herself missing. Embarrassed by the destructive wake of her parents as they left the only place Suzie could call home, Suzie makes no attempt to reconnect with the one person she needs. Its years later that a chance meeting with Sam’s older brother Michael will reunite her with both Sam and Bella—finally forcing her to confront her friends, her past and what she left behind.
After losing Suzie, Bella surprisingly finds her first real love in Sam. But his inability to commit to her or even his own future eventually drives them apart. Watching Suzie and Michael as they seem to have worked it all out, Bella’s only to wonder where she went wrong and how to make it right.
Years ago on a December night in their junior year of high school they had been in Peter Chang’s basement before the winter dance, when Sam had turned to Bella, his eyes as navy as his sweater, and said, “So?”
It began as simply as that, friends who had known each other since they were in diapers. Sam made her happy. Just the sight of him as his cheeks flushed a deep shade of red was all it took. She wanted to kiss him and she knew that he probably wanted to kiss her too. Later, when they had all stumbled from Peter’s basement, wandering through the streets of their neighborhood to the high school, Sam had bumped up against her shoulder and she had found his hand down by his side and grabbed hold of his fingers. He wound them through hers and hadn’t let go, and right then in that moment she had been so sure of everything she had ever wanted.
Since her mother’s funeral, Bella had been stuck on that memory, and she didn’t know why. Maybe it was only the ache of nostalgia. She wanted to lie in bed alone and go over every minute she had spent in Sam’s arms. But then she had noticed the way her mother was looking at her and instead she had crawled into bed with her and whispered about Sam. The mustard light in the room was diffused by the angle of the bathroom door, and she caught a glimpse of her mother’s face in the shadows. She was smiling but there was also something sad in her expression.
Friends. Family. Author Robin Antalek captures and conveys the intricacies of relationships in prose-like writing and I didn't want to end my time spent with Suzie, Bella and Sam. These childhood friends experience the complexities life throws at them in this compelling coming of age story. Told in multiple pov's, the story moves from one to another, spotlighting each individual and revealing their deepest thoughts and feelings. I felt the author did an excellent job bringing her well-rounded characters to life. Their voices remained unique and strong as their emotions ran the gamut from heartbreak to love and more.
The shift in time periods took some time to get used to and I'm usually not a fan of this writing device. There were some instances when I wanted some more to help me understand an individual's motivations, especially when the characters were young adults. Besides that, I enjoyed the stories and experiences. Intense and revealing, The Grown-Ups: A Novel is the first true gem I've read in 2015.
Interesting but bland.
Robin Antalek is the author of The Summer We Fell Apart. Her nonfiction writing has been published in literary journals and in several collections, including The Beautiful Anthology; Writing off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema; and The Weeklings: Revolution #1 Selected Essays 2012-1013. Her short fiction has appeared in 52 Stories, Five Chapters, Sun Dog, The Southeast Review, and Literary Mama among others. She lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.
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