Novels set in New York City… and there are a lot of them, aren’t there? So when I find one that’s really outstanding, it’s an extra thrill.
Jami Attenberg’s latest book, All Grown Up, clips along at a frenetic pace right from page one. Chapter One itself is arresting, because it’s written in second person. Who does that? Who writes a whole chapter in second person? Turns out this is an effective hook into a New York story featuring Andrea Bern, an art-school dropout with a dull day job and a convoluted personal life.
Interesting as the second-person viewpoint is, I have to say it’s somewhat of a relief to get back to good old first-person point of view in the rest of the book. Andrea tells her story in a hilariously disjointed way that somehow hangs together really well. Don’t ask me how; this is the mystique of the plot in this particular book. The writing is sharp and the dialogue adds a lot of punch. Even better, though, is Andrea’s voice when she is narrating conversations between herself and her therapist, or her friend who just had a baby, or that person who’s got this book about being single that every unmarried woman simply, absolutely has to read. I enjoy Andrea’s voice a lot.
Plus, you know, there aren’t a lot of books in which the main character is named Andrea. For me, that’s somewhat of a perk. For obvious reasons.
Classic books set in New York City:
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Washington Square by Henry James
Contemporary books set in New York City:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan