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All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Literary fiction

All Grown Up

Repeat author
Jami Attenberg is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include Saint Mazie.

by Jami Attenberg

Quick take

First I fall in love with the voice, dry and direct but not rude. I understand that the protagonist is not a heroine, but she is not not a heroine either.

Why I love it

Laia Garcia

'œI’m the captain of the sinking ship that is my flesh.'

Andrea Bern is at her therapist’s office contemplating the answer to the question who are you? I’m only on page eleven of All Grown Up, but I can already tell that this is the perfect book to read on the first day of my 'œgrown-woman takes first-ever alone vacation to an exotic location in order to shed past and re-emerge more powerful than ever.' I will sit in a banquet in the hotel restaurant and will read the book in one sitting, while drinking lots of coffee and eating Spanish pastries.

First I fall in love with the voice, dry and direct but not rude. Like me and my friends. I understand that the protagonist Andrea Bern is not a heroine, but she is not not a heroine either. She is the captain of the sinking ship that is her flesh.

Andrea is a woman unlike many others I’ve come across in my readings. She’s not perfect, but her imperfections are not steeped in the tragic. She is real. Here are some things to know about her: She’s on the verge of turning 40, she’s not married and doesn’t really want to be, she doesn’t have kids and doesn’t really want to have them, but it’s not like she’s incapable of loving and understanding love. She drinks and she does drugs and she sleeps with men that she likes to varying degrees. She loves and hates her mother, and she loves and hates her father, and she loves her brother, his wife, and their baby who is born terminally ill. We meet all her friends and romantic conquests, and learn how they came into Andrea’s life in short chapters that could stand alone as short stories. So you can read the book slowly, like for a month, on your commute, or sit with it and devour it because what’s the point of saving it for later?

Andrea lives in the moment, and she lives outside of it, sometimes at the same time, because our minds are capable of storing and living so many things at once. Like in a scene where she attends the funeral of her mother’s friend, and she’s listening to speeches while simultaneously thinking about her past history with some of the men in the very room, and she doesn’t want to get carried away by those thoughts but here they are anyway. If your mind has a mind of its own and a tendency to wander off to uncharted territories without your explicit permission to do so, if you always end up thinking of the weirdest stuff at the most inopportune times, then yeah, you’ll understand the mind of Andrea Bern too.

Having spent so many years going to where the circumstances have taken me, I’ve finally figured out how to steer the ship myself. That doesn’t mean it always goes where I want to, but at least I know where it’s going. Andrea knows this too, and reading All Grown Up was akin to having an older sister or a friend put a hand on my shoulder to let me know 'œeverything’s going to be okay.' Not okay, like a happy ending, but okay like a survival. Not unscathed, but undeterred. A book for the women who are warned, but persist.

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Member thoughts

All (2518)
All (2518)
Love (510)
Like (1282)
Dislike (726)
2612 ratings
  • 20% Love
  • 49% Like
  • 28% Dislike
  • Pawling , NY

    A book for the modern woman who doesn't necessarily fit the conventional mode of steps you're supposed to take in life. A heroine you can laugh and cry with and not judge for being selfish at times.

  • Milford, CT

    Andrea is cringe-worthy and scary-relatable. I enjoyed how Attenberg made me focus on her individual tales by repeating herself chapter to chapter and not writing linearly. It's a slow, smart reveal.

  • Rock Port, MO

    Brutally honest and well written, All Grown Up is about a woman who is anything but. This is what happens when you find out that "grown up" is different and can't be measured by others; just yourself.

  • Tucson, AZ

    Andrea was a really interesting character and I so enjoyed her stories. I liked that each chapter more or less pertained to someone in her life or an event that took place, and I how it hopped around.

  • New Holland, PA

    I relate to this in a strange, gut-wrenching sense. She's strong, but she has her issues just like anyone. She hurts, tries to heal the pain, tries to live a fulfilling life, but it just isn't easy.

  • Clearwater, FL

    A woman just doing exactly whatever she wants. And maybe some of what she doesn't. Funny, yes, a little sad but not too much. I think I liked the tone most of all. I just kept nodding, going "yesss."

  • Butler, WI

    Andrea's voice is strong throughout this book. I laughed with her, I cried with her. So many memorable quotes. "My mother is trying to murder me with her emotions. Please send help." I've been there.

  • Anchorage , AK

    This book is great to challenge what you see feminism as. Because on paper, Andrea is doing it right; living free on her terms. BUT GIRL. It really made me take an inward look at how I judge people.

  • Magnolia, TX

    I loved how All Grown Up was written. As I read, I felt like Andrea was having a conversation with me. She tackles several issues people struggle with as they age, which made this novel relatable.

  • Ellisville, MO

    The relationships depicted in All Grown Up are so real and relatable. Throughout the book, I thought to myself that J.A. must certainly have spied upon my life for inspiration. Beautifully written.


    Though the very ending left me hungry for closure, I came to the conclusion that sometimes life leaves you that way. Attenberg told this story so beautifully, I couldn't stop reading it. Great read!

  • Toano, VA

    This book had me hooked from the first chapter. I love the serious tone with the added dry humor. Totally up my alley. I read this in a day, but it had my mind racing the whole time. Love love love.

  • Howell, NJ

    I enjoyed the raw honesty of the main character - highs, lows, struggles, & challenges within her familial and romantic relationships, career, & self-discovery- I found it humorous and captivating

  • Oak Park, IL

    Despite being a short quick read, the author packs in a lot of details and small stories. It's almost written like a diary and each chapter skips around in time during the main character's life.

  • San Jose, CA

    Dry, chaotic, humorous, sad, ironic, relatable, this book was all these things. At times I didn't love the main character but I think I liked this book more for the imperfections of the narrator.

  • Russell Springs, KY

    I loved Andrea, even with all her flaws. Jami Attenberg's decision to make her narrator so unapologetic and honest with readers made me see that being a grown-up doesn't mean not making mistakes.

  • Seekonk, MA

    Beautiful story of a woman trying to find the answers to life's big questions while dealing with her own baggage. Loved the ending, brought tears,laughter and thought to my life. Loved this book!

  • San Antonio, TX

    Really enjoyed this book, it's light and it's dark, it's happy and sad, all the feelings you feel in real life. At times I identified with the main character and at times I was in shock or awe...

  • Long Island City, NY

    Loved it from page one! Perhaps I identify too much with the protagonist, but I found myself nodding, laughing along, and being impressed by the resiliency of women. A poignant and powerful read!

  • Portland, OR

    I want to be friends with this person. I want to see the drawings. I want to encourage her to paint. I want to eat really good food together and laugh while satirically waxing our worry stones.

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