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The Adults

3.48  ·  Rating Details ·  3,228 Ratings  ·  431 Reviews
In her ruefully funny and wickedly perceptive debut novel, Alison Espach deftly dissects matters of the heart and captures the lives of children and adults as they come to terms with life, death, and love.

At the center of this affluent suburban universe is Emily Vidal, a smart and snarky teenager, who gets involved in a suspect relationship with one of the adults after wi

Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Scribner (first published February 1st 2011)
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The Adults by Alison Espach was such a nice read for me. Now that I’ve finished it and I’m thinking about it I realize how good it is.

I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews for this book and I can understand why some people wouldn’t like this. The writing takes getting used to it. I personally thought it was beautiful (created a special shelf just because of this book), but it is unusual and it took me first 20% to get into the book. For example, Emily is in the middle of a birthday party, then sh
This book confused and upset me a lot. At the beginning I was like, "This is the greatest, most hilarious thing ever! People should need to be granted a license before they're allowed to write any books, and I should be the official in charge of deciding who can obtain such a license, and I will not give one to anybody except this Alison Espach." I was stunned and amazed and just thought it was the greatest (contemporary American) thing I could remember having read in years.

Then things started t
(Yes, there are spoilers.)

I heard about Allison Espach's debut novel, The Adults because, as a resident of Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, Brooklyn herself, she was going to be reading at my local bookstore. Her novel--and its heroine, the disenchanted fourteen-year-old Emily Vidal--seem to promise a fresh take on that oh-so-recurrent plotline: Rich Girl from Connecticut Isn't Buying It and Rebels. So I went down to the bookstore and grabbed a copy off the shelf, just to give the first page a test-rea
Cam *is the worst*
Dec 16, 2013 Cam *is the worst* rated it really liked it

3,5 stars

*Spoilers ahead, sorry!*


Wow, I'm not the only fucking mess around!

That's what I thought a lot, while I was reading The Adults.
I expected a classic coming of age novel, where the MC started as clueless and desperate and little bit naive and ended up being successful and full of wisdom and with a family of her own.

To be honest with you, the latter was more like
Jan 08, 2015 rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
As far back as I can remember, I've had a preoccupation with older men. Adults. I can remember being 13 years old and putting on a nice skirt to "impress" a friend of my parents, who I now realize would have been in his thirties at the time and married with children besides, a wildly inappropriate choice for a schoolgirl crush. There have been crushes on teachers in high school, professors in college, middle-aged law enforcement officers who are married with teenaged or adult children, now that ...more
Mar 20, 2011 Michelle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Debut novel about an upscale Connecticut town in the 1990s-2000s. Based on reviews, my expectations were not in line with the reality of this book. I expected a tale of the misdeeds of wealthy adult suburbanites as told through the eyes of a fourteen year old girl. While the novel starts this way it goes in a vastly different direction.

There is no concise through-plot here. Things are told as an aside, with flashbacks popping up in the middle of random paragraphs. At first this works and is con
Jan 11, 2012 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own, fiction
Rarely have I read first novels that are truly captivating, with memorable characters and settings that will endure long in my memory. Even rarer still are those first novels that represent the emergence of a truly original literary voice replete with memorable, truly exceptional, prose. Over the span of two and a half decades, only four first novels have I found quite captivating and notable as exceptional debuts by their authors, who have become since important writers of modern Anglo-American ...more
Apr 06, 2011 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I pretty much got back on Goodreads because of this book. It is so amazing... !!

The Adults touched me [whoa... there's a sentence right there] the way that Extremely Loud and Incredible Close and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius did. And yes, maybe I do love "every stereotypical book that twenty-something white people like" [as my friend puts it], but turns out I am a twenty-something white person... and I la-huved it.

Espach's raw interpretation of middle school brought me right back
Feb 27, 2011 Rebecca rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't ever write reviews for books, but this was such a disappointment that it seems necessary. The Adults did have the potential to be a good book - unfortunately, Espach did not realize that potential. It is a pretentious and exaggerated book that had an unrealistic protagonist. As a fellow young adult, I thought I would at least be able to empathize with Emily, but she is such a caricature that this is impossible. The author attempts to shock you at every turn with how grotesque yet meaning ...more
Heather Colacurcio
Feb 28, 2011 Heather Colacurcio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is precisely the kind of novel I consistently look for, but rarely find. Protagonist Emily Vidal is caught between two worlds - the world of her teenage existence and the world of the adults. Emily's previously carefree, childish existence is complicated when she witnesses a suicide and begins a confusing relationship with a teacher. We follow Emily as she struggles with her quickly changing family life, barely understanding her parents and grappling with how their decisions affect her. Esp ...more
Jacqueline Toce
If I could give this book 2 1/2 stars I would. I think the author did a good job of developing the characters and the plot, I just hated them all. I found the story to be very disturbing. The description on the jacket said it was supposed to be funny. There were a few funny scenes in the book but on the whole it wasn't funny. Without giving away too much of the plot, the main character, Emily, has an affair with her high school English teacher and it seems to be because her father has left the f ...more
Laura Thompson
Meh. I dunno. I see what the fuss is about--this book is weird, the author says things in a unique way. Woohoo. It's just that I didn't like or understand Emily, not even when she was a little girl at the beginning of the book. I felt like Emily, and everyone in the book really, was just written to allow the author to show off the fact that she writes surprising sentences. Nothing actually connected for me. I felt sad for Emily and many of the characters, but sad as their pathetic circu ...more
Feb 04, 2012 christa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I no longer actively seek out books I know I will hate. The anaerobic thrill of speed reading through adjective abuse and gender stereotypes has lost its thrill and now I simply prefer to read things I like and not read things I don’t like. Goodbye, Tao Lin. Adios, Stephenie Meyer.

On the other hand, I will still commit to something I’m dubious about. Meet Alison Espach’s “The Adults.” It has a real chick lit walk and talk, as though chick lit was stopped in the bathroom by a tall woman with an
Destinee Sutton
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 17, 2012 Jason rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think I felt like I had to read this book just because I’d wanted to months ago but could never find it. I expected a well-written novel of manners, relatively enjoyable but a bit on the cold side. That’s more or less what I got, though the writing wasn’t quite as good as I expected, and it was more of a coming of age story. Though the storytelling is a bit weird; time jumps before tracking back were gratuitous, and the characters felt pretty flat and unreal, obviously constructions in a novel ...more
Feb 26, 2011 Courtney rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am 57% finished with this book on my Kindle, and although it goes against my book-reading and movie-watching philosophy (that if you're more than halfway through it, just keep going until you've finished it whether it's good or not because you've devoted enough time to it already), I am putting it down. I do enjoy the way Espach writes, but the book and I just don't see eye to eye. Maybe it's too provocative, maybe it's just that I have not seriously liked a single charater in this book yet (i ...more
Kathleen Maguire
Mar 28, 2011 Kathleen Maguire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I almost gave this book 5 stars, but I'd like to reserve that rating for books that changed my life. However I loved loved loved this book. I read some of the bad reviews just to see if I was completely off the mark, and it seems like the people who didn't like it took the book way too literally. Reading the first couple chapters I thought, ok, precocious young narrator is smarter than all the adults around her, blah, blah, blah. By about a third of the way through I was making many highlights ( ...more
Emily Vidal is a teenager growing up in a suburban neighborhood of Connecticut filled with adults who fall somewhat short of being just that - The Adults. Emily's experiences can be viewed as normal by some and completely off the wall by others. She shares her experiences with life as she knows it, the confusion of love, sex and suicide with us as she grows into a young woman.

Emily is an interesting character who pulls you into her insane world. She has a way of dropping an unusual line out of t
Jun 26, 2011 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Don't get involved with adults, the kids are told. Everything you'll ever learn, they already know. Fourteen-year-old Emily can't help but be involved - her dad's having an affair, there's a baby on the way, her parents are getting divorced, and a neighbour commits suicide on her lawn. What can you do? The kids are busy performing cosmetic surgery in the science lab, and trying to outdrink their teachers at the school dance.
Emily begins an affair with her English teacher, for no particular rea
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jan 31, 2011 Lolly K Dandeneau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised by how much I loved this dark coming of age tale. Emily Vidal witnesses the suicide of a neighbor and begins an affair with an adult. Who the 'adult' is takes on big meaning throughout the novel. Emily and her friends, all on the edge of adulthood, teem with a fury of sexual energy. The suicide is a catalyst of many situations in this novel. Her parents have a monster of a marriage that is slowly dying and creating endings and beginnings in its wake. Emily, lost in the chaos and ...more
Mar 14, 2011 Pamela rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Just because the NY Times gives a book a stellar review, does not necessarily mean the book is worth the read. I downloaded this want-to-be diamond in the rough onto my NOOK because of such a review. I wanted to see what earns high praise from the Literati. After reading this fictional tell all with TMI (Too Much Information) written all over it, I felt like I needed to be bathed in bleach. Perhaps it's my Christian sensibilities that turned me off from this profanity riddled read or maybe it's ...more
Karen Bonilla
I guess I must not have much of a sense of humor because, though this book was full of jokes, I didn't think any of them were funny. Most of the humor was obscure and strange to me. The characters in it all sounded the same. It was like someone talking to themselves. It might have been the reason why I didn't really connect or care about the characters. I didn't like this book much but for some reason, I kept reading it. The book just seemed flat and dull to me but I kept hoping that it would ge ...more
Mar 21, 2011 Chara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
loved the main character, especially early in the story when it was about her childhood. I really identified with her sense of humor.

The story was interesting because I really had no idea what the climax would be about. Usually you know the topic of a climax, will they break up or stay together? will they live or die? will they be forgiven or not? this one wasn't very clear. As I got about 3/4 through the story, I kept looking ahead to look for the names of certain characters.
Sep 23, 2010 eb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stick with this one. I almost put it down after 100 pages, because the lists and the narrator's chilly veneer were getting to me. And I almost put it down again when the action moved to Prague, because I felt I was being yanked into another novel. But by the last pages, I was sobbing and feeling dumb for wanting to bail. Espach knows what she's doing, and what she's doing is amazing.
Emily Pittsley
Okay story, told very pretentiously. Looking at the back cover to see who this author is, I see she is quite young. I'm guessing she tried to "wow" us w/her debut novel, but I wasn't that wowed. Tries to be a coming-of-age type book, but done w/a little more provocativeness than was necessary to tell the story.
Mary Bird
To start off, let me say that I did like this book - I enjoyed reading it, and I am glad that I arbitrarily grabbed it in the library because I was standing in a random aisle and liked the cover.

That being said, this book was a bit of a ride. Some of it felt almost Shirley Jackson-ish (think Hangsaman), with a sort of detached otherness placed over the concepts of getting older. I think I got more out of the chapters of the character when she was younger - it felt more defined, and though it als
Mar 31, 2011 Hillary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A kind of modern-day take on Lolita, The Adults is the story of Emily Vidal, a self-aware teenager growing up in suburban Connecticut. Caught in a time of turmoil that reaches beyond the normal turmoil of adolescence, Emily has a prolonged and somewhat matter-of-fact affair with her English teacher and The Adults subsequently revisits their relationship at several key points over the next ten years. What I found most interesting about this book was how much the relationship between Emily and the ...more
Nov 29, 2015 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, and I'm giving it 5 stars even though I can't say it is on par with War and Peace or The Last Unicorn (I don't care what anyone says; that book was awesome.) I disagree with some of the criticisms that I've read: I don't think Espach throws too much plot at us, and I don't think she normalizes inappropriate relationships. In fact, the effects of Emily's relationship with Jonathan struck me as profound in a slow and subtle way. I thought that Espach depicted that relationship w ...more
Jan 28, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this book because it was well constructed, well written and a plausible story. We see the world of adults through Emily's eyes (an only child) and the story commences when she is 14 years old. Coping with adolescence, peers, school, adults at that age is never easy and it is well described. She is close to her father but he has an affair with a neighbour. Her parent's split up and his work takes him off to Europe and Emily stays with her mother and her problems. Emily 15, becom ...more
Oct 05, 2011 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I’d read a few charming reviews of this debut novel, which follows teenage narrator Emily Vidal as she deals with a neighborhood full of dysfunction in upscale Connecticut suburb. The novel opens with a 50th birthday party for Emily’s father. Emily has just learned that her parents are getting divorced and she seems to handle this shockingly well, but then she and her crush, Mark, see her father and Mark’s mother kissing at the party. The next day, Emily witnesses Mark’s ill father hang himself ...more
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Paperback Society: Voice 1 6 Oct 27, 2012 10:38AM  
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Alison Espach grew up in Trumbull, Connecticut, where she lived for most of her life. She earned her BA from Providence College and her Masters in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney's, Five Chapters, Glamour, Salon, The Daily Beast, Writer's Digest, and other journals.

She is currently teaching in New York City.
More about Alison Espach...

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“Children's lives are always beginning and adults' lives are always ending. Or is it the opposite? Your childhood is always ending and your adult self is always beginning. You are always learning how to say good-bye to whoever you were at the dinner table the night before.” 15 likes
“And then once in the music storage room. It was cold. The room was small with thin gray carpet and I cried after in my bed thinking of how sad the violins looked alone in the corner. It was embarrassing to have sex in front of the wrong things, especially a violin, which was so dignified at every angle” 10 likes
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