The struggle is real.
Nick Stahlnecker is eighteen and not ready to grow up yet. He has a summer job, a case of existential panic, and a hopeless crush on the unattainable Jai Hazenbrook. Except how do you know that your coworker’s unattainable unless you ask to blow him in the porta-potty?
That’s probably not what Dad meant when he said Nick should act more like an adult.
Twenty-five-year-old Jai is back in his hometown of Franklin, Ohio, just long enough to earn the money to get the hell out again. His long-term goal of seeing more of the world is worth the short-term pain of living in his mother’s basement, but only barely.
Meeting Nick doesn’t fit in with Jai’s plans at all, but, as Jai soon learns, you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to have the adventure of a lifetime.
This is not a summer romance. This is a summer friendship-with-benefits. It’s got pizza with disgusting toppings, Netflix and chill, and accidental exhibitionism. That’s all. There are no feelings here. None. Shut up.
I’ve read several of Henry’s books, but they’ve all been her darker M/M stories. Obviously, I knew by the description that Adulting 101 wasn’t going to be like any of her previous novels I’d read, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. As it turns out, Adulting 101 was exactly what I needed to read this weekend because after receiving some extremely sad news, I needed to read a character who made me laugh, who’s such a dork that he’s beyond cute and lovable, and who wants to know that he has a purpose in life, even if he doesn’t know what that purpose is yet.
The beginning of this book is awkward. Initially, I thought it was because I’d read a string of books written in the first person and the switch to third person with alternating points was making it harder to digest than usual. [I should note that I don’t have a preference for first or third person points of view because I believe it depends upon the story and the author’s comfort with the format.] However, as I read on I realized that the beginning is awkward because both Nick and Jai are awkward. Truth be told, it wasn’t hard to see Nick’s awkwardness because he’s an 18-year-old gay kid who flies his geek flag proudly – and quite adorably, I’ll add. But because Jai seems like he’s got his life together – especially when we see him from Nick’s point of view – it took me longer to realize that Jai is awkward in his own, but less obvious, ways. Yet despite their less than auspicious beginning (cue the giggles), Nick and Jai’s casual sexual arrangement gives them the chance to get to know one another and become friends. As they spend time together, they become less casual and more invested in the other, but neither will admit it because there’s an expiration date looming large – when Nick goes off to college and Jai heads to Argentina to explore for nine months. But as the end of summer nears, Nick is having a harder time coping with his parents’ expectations and becoming an adult. Adulting is hard, but it’s even worse when you don’t know what it is you want out of life and feel stupid because you seem to be the only one who doesn’t have it figured out.
I loved Nick. As the title would suggest, this is his coming of age tale as he approaches the transition from high school senior to…? And that’s exactly why Nick is such a likeable character. Even though there are a few things in life he’s certain of – his desire for Jai being one of them – he’s not arrogant and self-assured. I don’t want to say that he has a poor self-esteem, but it’s more that he recognizes his short comings (no height pun intended) and weaknesses, and does his best to accept them as being part of who he is. He knows he’s a geek, but he’s comfortable with it because he’s happy in his geekdom. He’s unsure of his future because he has no idea what he wants to do, but he’s not sure how to talk to his parents about it. And this, more than anything else in my opinion, has contributed to his inability to see himself clearly. Thankfully, Jai sees him clearer than most and, as he admits to himself that there’s more to their relationship than they intended, he tries to help Nick see himself for the great guy he is and gain some much needed confidence. I loved the friendship between Nick and Devon; it was sooo codependent, but in a good way, because they were more like brothers than friends, and their cuddling sessions were the cutest thing ever. Adulting 101 is full of laugh out loud moments, groan-worthy embarrassing moments, hot as heck sexual discovery moments, cringe-worthy humiliating moments, a few syrupy sweet awwwwww moments, and some rather empowering and encouraging coming of age moments as Nick starts adulting, with Devon and Jai’s help. I absolutely loved this book and am very happy to know that not every Lisa Henry book will have me rocking in a corner in fear. And an Adulting 201 would be much appreciated as I’d love the chance to catch up with Nick and Jai during their next summer break.