REVIEW: Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth

In brief: Jenny’s life is falling apart at the seams. The only thing good is Instagram…until it turns around to bite her too.

The good: Some interesting ideas explored.

The not-so-good: It really didn’t flow for me and it was difficult to feel for Jenny.

Why I chose it: Really, really enjoyed Animals.

Year: 2020

Pages: 351

Publisher: Borough Press (Harper Collins)

Setting: London

Rating: 6 out of 10

I was looking forward to reading Adults. I really liked the way that Unsworth’s previous novel, Animals, was in your face and unapologetic. While I think you could say the same of Adults, the overall story just didn’t work for me. It felt disjointed and inconsistent, jumping from issue to issue but never quite resolving them. It was also difficult to find a redeeming feature in Jenny, the main character.

Jenny is quite obsessed with Instagram, to the point where a stale croissant in shot makes her quite agitated as to what her followers will think. She starts the novel by appearing to live for likes, comments and influencer followers. She’s also particularly obsessed with one Instagrammer, Suzy Brambles. It appears that her work and social life is suffering due to her social media addiction. She ignores her best friend who is frankly asking for help and checking Instagram during sex seemed to be the final straw in her relationship. Jenny is truly alone, until her millennial boarders desert her and her mother moves in. She and her mother have a very complex relationship and it’s odd initially to see why Jenny would let her mother back into her life. But then the novel starts exploring Jenny’s past and her pain, which starts to explain why she is desperate for attention and wanting to be loved. The problem is that Jenny doesn’t always go about it in the best way, making for a few too many awkward, cringy confrontations. Sometimes it seems like Jenny is deliberately setting herself up for a fall. At other times she seems completely clueless and needy.

The story is frank, raw and honest but it’s rather disjointed. It’s more about Jenny and her character rather than being plot driven. I feel this would have worked better if I could have liked or related to Jenny more. She’s not particularly likeable. She’s a mess. Although she does start to change towards the end of the book and get help, it was too little too late. I couldn’t see why her best friend forgave her, as Jenny was incredibly self-centred. It seems that Adults tried to do too much, taking on social media addiction, relationships, love and loss all in one. It sometimes misses the mark in being funny or satirical and goes into awkward silence territory. I did like the texts and social media comments – love it or loathe it, this is the society we live in.

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