...a smart, funny/sad and unflinchingly honest novel ... Attenberg never takes the humor so far that it undercuts Andrea’s angst, her painful past or her family’s sorrow. In sparkling prose, she brings this wonderful character so fully to life that after the book ended, I found myself wishing Andrea well as if she were a good friend and wondering what she would do next.
...an inventive, funny, fragmented clutter. Billed as a novel, it reads more like a linked story collection, with plots, timelines and characters that swerve and fold into each other. At its best, this form makes an effective container for a life that’s painfully disorganized. At its not-so-best, it creates redundancies that annoy rather than illuminate ... A stalled-out protagonist can grow tedious. But Attenberg’s gift for reducing her generation to its lowest common cultural denominator, then drawing social insights from the roux, imbues Andrea’s travails with meaning ... It’s hard to love a book whose protagonist is as unlovable as Andrea. And yet, All Grown Up is a smart, addictive, hilarious and relevant novel. This paradox is a credit to Attenberg’s wit and scathing social observations, which offer up an affectionate, insightful portrait of her tribe.
Sometimes I feel like we've all made some blood pact to call this voice original and brave 20 years since it's been either. In fact, All Grown Up is a book so of the zeitgeist that if you took it onto the G train it would just dissolve and merge with the air ... [The] opening is meant to signal a right-thinking book. This performative privilege check on page one — like it is a coat you must store before the show — tells us a lot about this character, whose empathy is so meager that it appears in feeble gestures, in acknowledgments of other people's hardships but no stake in them ... This book is attractive in several ways: the reading is so easy you slide through it like a knife through butter. It's occasionally witty. The structure is surprising and original ... All Grown Up purports to defend something legitimate and defensible – i.e., not having a spouse or children — but actually seems to promote something indefensible — not being at all responsible for other people.
There are some fascinating examinations of the shifting culture as filtered through Andrea’s various iterations: the art student, hungry for approval; the single woman at her best friend’s side, feeling more warmly toward this TriBeCa yummy-mummy now that her financier husband has ditched her and their baby, somehow evening out the score ... It’s intriguingly provocative on Attenberg’s part to make a protagonist this insensitive and, dare I say it, immature ... It’s no easy task to build a novel around a character who doesn’t necessarily evolve, or perhaps evolves quietly, with baby steps, on tiptoe, close to the finish line, and maybe, please God, it’s not too late. But for all the dark clouds coasting overhead, Attenberg, with her wry sense of humor, manages to entertain and move us nonetheless.
One of Attenberg’s great gifts as a writer is her ability to create characters who aren’t necessarily likeable but are wincingly credible and vulnerable ... Attenberg stays true to her protagonist’s honesty in a painfully moving final scene that suggests hope but makes no promises. Has Andrea finally discovered empathy and rediscovered her calling as a painter? Or has she temporarily been jolted loose from her habitual self-absorption, which will reabsorb her once these extreme circumstances pass? Based on the evidence All Grown Up provides, the latter is more likely. Based on the powerful emotions Jami Attenberg excavates and elicits, we hope for the former.
The literature of sex and the single woman has been in the doldrums since Carrie got married and Bridget had her baby, so three cheers for this warts-and-all portrait of a woman trying to find her place in the world and in her own nuclear family now she is all grown up ... This is a novel about how to step up when your smug married friend suddenly gets divorced, or when your annoying mum really needs you; about 'being there' for people when you don’t even know where 'there' is. It has hope, in spades.
Plenty of forests have died in the process of chronicling the plight of the white male Brooklyn writer, so it is refreshing to read a novel about a Brooklyn-dwelling woman that covers similar territory ... I didn’t want Andrea as a best friend, but I felt enriched by her take on the world. The novel’s denouement is sad and takes on an otherworldly quality. Yet there was something disappointingly conventional about it. After all of Andrea’s defiance of convention, you are left feeling that she is not forging a brave new world but, rather, shielding herself from emotional vulnerability.
...[a] funny, insightful new novel ... Some people don't have time to ponder what it means to be 'all grown up,' as they're too busy driving their kids to basketball practice or their aging parents to medical appointments. Andrea Bern has staked out her territory in the shifting sands of time and from that stable perch can examine this question, and decide, finally, when and if it's time to jump into the maelstrom of other people's lives.
Notably, Attenberg shirks chronology and instead creates a scatter plot of timelines, a structural move that benefits Andrea’s warm gossipy tone and hazy city lifestyle. Each chapter feels like a short story ... In their consistent execution, these artistic decisions are made with confidence and intention, defying several stuffy literary conventions ... All Grown Up plays by its own set of aesthetic rules, resulting in a fast read and a witty, unabashed take on one of American literature’s most enduring archetypes.
All Grown Up is a novel about a single, childless woman on the verge of turning 40 in New York with a life she’s no longer sure she still wants … What does it mean to be an adult, Attenberg asks, if you have none of the traditional trappings that signify adulthood — no spouse, no kids, no property, no ambition, no emotional maturity? … I found that parts of All Grown Up felt all too real. But to imply that you need to be single or female to appreciate All Grown Up would be a severe disservice to Attenberg.