Two on One: All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg & The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Two on One: All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg & The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Those of you who have seen social media posts of mine (and it's been mentioned here, as well) know that I'm a huge fan of The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise; for me, it is a fascinating social experiment (the "actors" know they are being staged, yet can't help falling for the scheme) and a great way to entertain myself during treadmill runs. 

If you're familiar with the show, there are usually a couple of instances during the season when two individuals go on a date with either the bachelor or bachelorette and one of them is sent home; it's called a two on one date, hence the name of this post. 

These two novels were both published today and they share some themes; their authors, however, use these themes to craft completely different story lines and I thought I'd share some thoughts on my experience of each of them. 

But first, a little background: 

 

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
208 pages (Kindle Edition)
Advance copy provided by publisher

Nearing her 40th birthday, Andrea Bern's life does not look the way she, or anyone in her family, might have expected it to look by this age; set in New York City, and expressed in perfectly-formulated vignettes, readers embark on a journey with Andrea to find out where she is and, more important, where she'd like to be. 

 

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Published by Crown
276 pages (Kindle Edition)
Advance copy provided by publisher

Two cousins, united in their grandparents' estate following the death of their mothers, discover that their past, and that of their family, is marred by deeply hidden secrets; as answers begin to unfold, the tale becomes much darker and the suspense more intriguing. Readers may be disturbed by some of the subject matter, but I dare you to try putting it down.

 

Similar Themes:

  • Coming of age and the development of self-awareness
  • Returning to the site of one's past, reluctantly
  • Disappointment
  • Conflicted relationships/inability to sustain meaningful relationships
  • Sexuality as a coping mechanism (distraction) and a way to develop one's sense of worth

Pros:

  • Each of these are short reads; not only in numbers of pages, but also in their pace. While All Grown Up moves along in a different way, not entirely chronological and without the buildup and suspense of The Roanoke Girls, its story is no less captivating. I read All Grown Up in one day! 
  • Humor in all the right places...when you least expect it. 
  • Both novels are full of beautiful descriptions and the writing is top notch.
I hold his face in my hands, and we look at each other and don’t speak, and the room closes in on us, I feel it, the world is shrinking, and there is just him and me, physically connected, as close to being one as we can be. Gross.
— All Grown Up

Cons:

  • If readers do not feel connected to any of the aforementioned themes, the protagonist, or its artful presentation, the story line in All Grown Up may seem to drag at times; in contrast to The Roanoke Girls, this is not a novel to read for those who seek suspense. Instead, read this one so that you can be stopped, abruptly, by brilliant observations and be ready to highlight passages. 
  • The level of family dysfunction and difficult subject matter in The Roanoke Girls has been compared, in several comments I've read, to a modern-day V.C. Andrews (remember Flowers in the Attic?) production; it will be a complete turn-off, for some readers. It should probably come with a warning label. 
Guilt, I’m discovering, is an emotion that’s almost impossible to kill. It’s like a poisonous weed that keeps on growing, burrowing into every vulnerable spot. Always reminding you of all the ways you’ve failed.
— The Roanoke Girls

Will You Accept This Rose?

The Roanoke Girls was highly entertaining, in spite of the cringe-worthy and questionable aspects of the story (no spoilers!), and in the spirit of this post it is definitely akin to the trashy drama on The Bachelor. Having said that, I would definitely offer the rose to All Grown Up; for me, it is a solid 4.5 stars on the Goodreads scale (even though they don't allow 1/2 stars!). I've always enjoyed author Jami Attenberg's work, and this new release is no exception. 

 


 

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