THE GROWN UPS by Robin Antalek


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Over a period of 15 years, a group of affluent teenagers grows up amid parental crises and misfortunes of their own making.

In the summer of 1997 in Rye, New York, 15-year-old Sam looks through the box Suzie Epstein hands him. In it are photos, taken by Suzie's father, of all the mothers of the neighborhood, smiling, in swimsuits, perhaps conquests of Mr. Epstein, perhaps not. It's the summer of unraveling: The Epsteins, after public confrontations, move to suburban Boston to start anew, and Sam's mother simply leaves, abandoning Sam and his father to companionable bachelorhood. Despite their first-love–fueled fumblings, Sam and Suzie lose touch. Suzie, reeling from caring for her younger brothers once her father permanently decamps and her mother befriends a vodka bottle, cuts all ties with her humiliating past, hoping to escape to college early. Sam takes up with Suzie's best friend, Bella, a relationship that continues through college in an undefined, convenient pattern of long weekends and longer separations. When Bella's mother dies, they all return to Rye, to the pot fugue of Peter Chang's basement, and even Suzie returns, shockingly on the arm of Sam's older, medical-student brother. Sam is unstrung by Suzie and his brother's relationship, and, coupled with a failing GPA, this ushers in a decade of drifting for Sam, a disappointment to everyone, including Bella, who later sacrifices everything for a demanding poet. Antalek's narrative, split among Sam, Suzie and Bella, is disconnected from time and place (they are millennials though could be from any of the past four decades, there are so few details) so the focus rests entirely on their opaque emotional struggles, leaving neither plot not character to drive the story.

The plot, like the protagonists themselves, wanders to adulthood in this middling coming-of-age tale.

Pub Date: Jan. 27th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-230248-9
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2015


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