Review: Adulting 101 by Lisa Henry


Note: This ARC was provided by Riptide Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

I was funny. It was somehow sad too. And scary, maybe, in ways Nick can't articulate. Like, does becoming an adult mean losing a part of himself? Or is he just being a fucking teenage drama queen?

Adulting 101 is one of the most surprisingly engaging books that I've had the pleasure of reading and reviewing this year. Lisa Henry goes above and beyond with this story of eighteen-year-old Nick Stahlnecker, a recent high school graduate, and twenty-five-year-old Jai Hazenbrook. If I had to describe this book in five words or less, I'd have to call it a delightfully quirky and creative read. It's a coming of age M/M romance and it's told with a deceptively lighthearted tone, one that affords it lots of wit and humor. I say "deceptively" because there are very real issues and concerns that Nick has to contend with at this point in his life. That summer between finishing high school and beginning college is a transitional phase, but if we're being honest here, that transition is one that should have begun earlier on. You can't force all these changes that one person has to deal with in a matter of a couple of months. There's so much pressure and tons more expectation, but what if what's expected of you is something you aren't ready for?

Nick Stahlnecker's father expects him to start acting like an adult by working the summer before he heads of to college. He works in a construction company owned by a friend of his father's, but Nick isn't built for actual manual labor, which is why he spends all his time inside the office making sure his stapler is constantly in working condition. Well, he doesn't spend all his time doing that. If he's honest, most of his time is dedicated to thinking of Jai Hazenbrook, a member of the construction crew. When an offer for a blow job leads to both of them getting fired, Nick feels the need to apologize, especially since Jai works during the summer to afford to spend the rest of the year backpacking around the world. Surprisingly, they agree to become kinda-friends-with-unspecified-benefits, a situation that's foreign to both of them, what with Nick being a virgin (so he obviously wasn't getting benefits from anyone) and Jai engaging in spontaneous hook-ups with men or women while traveling. This is going to be one summer to remember...

Being an adult doesn't really have much to do with one's age. I get that people think once someone hits eighteen, they're legally an adult or at the age of consent, at least in a lot of countries, so there's this expectation for them to act a certain way. The reality is, you can't insist upon someone to think or feel like how society dictates. Nick is at a point in his life where he's still finding his place in the world and isn't sure that he's wholly ready to go to the university he's expected to enroll at. He panics at the thought that his best friend, Devon Staples, won't be going to the same school, meaning he won't have the one source of support he's always been able to count on to be right there whenever he needed it. Of course, Nick doesn't want to disappoint his parents but he can't seem to help but disappoint them anyway, always seeming to fall short. When Nick and Jai become a part of each other's lives, it's supposed to be just for the summer but even temporary connections can affect who they are in ways they may never have considered possible.

There were parts of both Nick and Jai that I easily recognized within myself at various points in my life, and I confess, I still recognize today. Jai may be in his mid-twenties but even he isn't fully done with "adulting". Heck, I doubt anyone ever is. Jai is a restless wanderer whose only solid plans for the future are immediate, planning and budgeting for the nine months that he'll be anywhere but his hometown. But compared to Nick, he knows what he wants to do for now and that's to travel and he's responsible and mature enough to not rely on anyone else to provide him with the funds to do so. His interactions with Nick showcase how different they are, but it's those differences that also make them this mismatch you can't help but root for. Their story made me laugh but it also made me pause and think about how I was at their age. That ending was perfect, reminding readers that at times, it's absolutely okay to live for the now. Adulting 101 has got humor and angst and a cast of characters that you'll fall in love with. Five-plus stars. ♥

Date Read: 18 August 2016

Learn more about Lisa Henry.

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