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How to Be a Grown-Up


How to Be a Grown-Up

Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus have brought us the stories of Upper East Side nannies (THE NANNY DIARIES), former activists looking for Internet job money (CITIZEN GIRL) and an assistant to a diva (BETWEEN YOU AND ME), all of which match fairy tale values to today's techie-controlled world of celebrity and other one-percenters. Their easygoing style has brought them great success, and HOW TO BE A GROWN-UP will certainly resonate with their crew of devoted readers.

Rory McGovern married the man of her dreams --- a very famous teen actor who ended up choosing her out of all the available girls at SUNY Purchase, their college. But as they settle down, have two children and get older, Blake finds that his work comes more sporadically, and a crisis sets in. He takes off to find himself, leaving Rory with a lot of bills, the kids and the need for a new career. She ends up at an Internet startup company run by a couple of young ladies with a lot of capital and MBAs to hang on their fancy loft walls. While Blake settles into his depression, Rory takes her freelance styling experience and applies it to JeuneBug, the "first high-end lifestyle website for children," where overpriced bedroom furniture and other luxury items are touted as the “must-haves” for the baby set.

"With Rory being a grown-up, the book never fails to set a course for adventure and make it hilarious, with the occasional moment of quiet reflection on modern times."

McLaughlin and Kraus like to hold their magnifying glass to ridiculous places in the world of always-flowing cash, those special places where the color of one's nail polish is important, and the utmost attention is given to the latest trends and trappings of the most social of all social sets: the Upper East Side denizens of Manhattan.

The authors give Rory an authentic and funny voice, as she is bossed around by her young twenty-something higher-ups who tell her, loudly, that "obviously these should be force-ranked by potential ad rev clicks." Clearly, they take big swipes at the world of both the overprivileged daughters of the moneyed set and the ridiculous minutiae of the Internet world. Rory is a good correspondent from these front lines --- she is needing to maintain a lifestyle that mirrors theirs, but she is not to the manor born and thus can comment wisely on the consequences of their actions. She is the perfect character for all of us to attach ourselves to and watch the proceedings from the front row seat she provides. Juggling her job, being a single parent, dealing with the office craziness and handling a few interested new guys --- including her boss's very young boyfriend --- Rory manages to make the most of her potential, as well as whatever sanity she can bring to the swirling corporate mess around her.

The young ladies are barely tolerable, being so expectant and narcissistic. But how else could they be profiled? Rory needs to be the strong, capable, fairly sane person in the midst of all the drama that goes on. McLaughlin and Kraus are very good at allying all the readers with the one main character in their books who most resembles them. HOW TO BE A GROWN-UP is not so much about being a grown-up as tolerating the change brought to the economy by the 1% and the fact that those one-percenters have all the money and technical savvy at their hands to dictate how the rest of us will live.

As we watch Rory operate, it is clear that she has little to gain from the work but everything to gain from the tolerance and understanding she exhibits in the face of their ridiculous privilege. With Rory being a grown-up, the book never fails to set a course for adventure and make it hilarious, with the occasional moment of quiet reflection on modern times.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on August 14, 2015

How to Be a Grown-Up
by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

  • Publication Date: July 12, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press
  • ISBN-10: 1451643470
  • ISBN-13: 9781451643473