“’I like pizza,’ Nick says slowly, unable to tear his gaze away from Jai’s abs. Wild horses couldn’t even. Nick will stab them if they try.”
In a word: Read the thing! This book is a delight! The writing is hilarious and easy to read, the characters are entertaining and engaging, and the romance is sweet and dirty and funny. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard at a book in a while. Nick and Jai as the main couple are great together (between the sweeter moments, the awkward sex, and the dialogue there’s always something to smile about), and the side characters bring even more fun and drama. Also Nick and Devon (his best friend) have the most unique relationship I think I’ve ever read and I would absolutely read a book about them (as long as their significant others are also there to roll their eyes at all their shenanigans). There is nothing about this book that I don’t like. There is some light angst that all comes to a head near the end, but most of the story is hilarity, awkwardness, and fluff. It’s also a bit of a coming-of-age story for people like Nick who are just starting their journey to adulthood and have no idea what they’re doing. If you’re looking for a funny, light read, this is it.
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Couple: Nick Stahlnecker is 18 years old and just graduated from high school. He’s trying to make the most of his summer before he has to head off to college in the fall. Jai Hazenbrook is 25 and only in town for the summer to make enough money to finance his trip to Argentina (latest in a long line). Nick is hyper, impulsive, and a proud geek, but he’s also anxious and insecure. Jai is an introvert who seems to have the majority of his life figured out; even as he spends most of his year travelling to avoid the claustrophobic feeling of his small hometown. The two of them are seven years apart and have never really interacted before now. They both end up working for the same construction company for the summer and it’s pretty much lust at first sight when Nick first spots Jai. Jai’s reaction isn’t as strong as Nick’s, but he’s attracted to the guy enough to agree to a blowjob onsite. That’s where their story begins. That fateful blowjob ends up getting them both fired, but it also kicks off their fuck buddy arrangement. With Nick off to college and Jai headed for Argentina, the two of them figure that they can spend the summer fooling around and then go their separate ways in the fall with no hurt feelings. It’s an attractive enough plan: Nick will finally get to lose his virginity (to the hottest guy he’s ever seen), and Jai will have someone for no-strings sex while he’s stuck in town. They don’t plan for it to become a thing (Nick has never had a boyfriend before and Jai is more used to short affairs with men and women he makes friends with on his travels), so of course that’s exactly what happens. There are probably a few reasons why the two of them shouldn’t work the way they do, but they’re actually a very good couple and by the time summer is winding down they’ve somehow managed to stumble their way into an actual ‘many strings attached’ romance. They become friends at first, then feelings happen and they become something more. They work well together; their interactions are always funny and heartwarming and you can see how they come to care for each other. It’s virtually impossible to not want to root for them.
The Best Friend: Devon Staples is Nick’s best friend since the third grade. He is a gift, also a living ray of sunshine. You don’t often see relationships like theirs in books. Two teenage boys, one gay one straight, who are comfortable being so close that they cuddle, share everything, and tell each other ‘I love you’ on the regular. I love their relationship and their closeness. Devon’s always got Nick’s back, which extends to the situation with Jai, in which Devon delivers his best effort of a shovel talk because Nick is Devon’s BFF and if Jai ever hurts him Devon will destroy him (on Instagram, even). Devon himself is pretty entertaining to read. He’s got a crush on his co-worker and he’s a complete dork about it. He’s also apparently been learning a lot about male privilege and sometimes has to stop and ask Nick for reassurance that he isn’t being a Nice Guy or a fuckboy or overstepping any boundaries. He’s leaving town for university and dealing with his looming separation from Nick better than Nick is. He doesn’t want to leave Nick behind but he’s confident that they can do the long-distance friends deal while at the same time worried about how Nick will handle things. Also there are some text conversations between them included between scenes and their conversations are hilarious. I would read an entire book just filled with their text conversations.
The Side Characters: Another thing I love about this book is the side characters. Nick and Jai are the two mains and they carry the story well enough on their own, but it’s made so much better with the addition of a colourful cast of friends and family for an extra punch. There’s Devon, of course, Nick’s BFF, along with the girl he has a crush on at work, Ebony, who it turns out also becomes friends with Nick and Jai. We don’t see much of Ebony, but we know through Devon that she adorable, awesome, and badass (her father gave Devon the shovel talk, but if Devon ever hurts Ebony it’ll be Ebony that he’ll have to look over his shoulder for). There’s Patricia, who worked in the office at the construction company with Nick where they both shared notes on how attractive Jai is (when’s she’s not completely annoyed with Nick for constantly running the stapler). Pauly runs the pizza parlour that Devon, Ebony, and Jai work at. He doesn’t care, no fucks to give here. Nick still lives with his parents, Chris and Marnie Stahlnecker, who are hellbent on Nick acting like an adult and keeping down a job all summer so he’ll have some extra money for when he goes to college in the fall. Nick doesn’t really see eye-to-eye with his parents, especially his father. Chris wants Nick to stop goofing off and get his act together, Nick isn’t doing well with this pressure on him and it’s only driving a wedge in their relationship. Jai is usually off travelling the world, but during the summers he comes back home to earn some money for his next trip. While home, he stays with his mother, Janice Hazenbrook, in her basement. The Hazenbrook family is still suffering the loss of Jai’s father from cancer when Jai was still a teenager, though they’re getting better. Aside from Jai, Janice also houses her daughter Kat, Kat’s husband Ronny, and their two children Caden (from Kat’s first marriage) and baby Noah. Jai’s family is hilarious, also crude and shameless. They get along with Nick very well. We don’t see as much of Jai’s family dynamics as we do Nick’s, but we see enough to know that Janice loves her children very much, and that she and Kat are just as likely to tease Jai forever as they are to provide comfort and helpful advice (and innuendos). Ronny and Jai are pretty good friends, and he provides an extra bit of comic relief by 1. being Nick’s former history teacher, and 2. walking in on them twice during some private time (those two things combined make for a lot of awkward humour).
The Dilemma: As much as this is a story about two guys who accidentally fall for each other (as you do), this is also a story about trying to figure out your future. Or not figuring it out, as the case may be. Nick has just graduated from high school. He’s 18, healthy, friendly, and on his way to college in the fall. He has so much going for him, if only it was what he really wanted. Nick’s problem is that he doesn’t know what he wants out of life. And really, why should he? He’s not even old enough to drink (not that that actually stops him), why should he have to decide his whole life’s course right now? When he’s not with Jai, Nick spends a lot of time worrying about what his future plans are. It seems like everyone around him (read: his parents) expect him to have everything figured out and that he should know exactly who he is and what he wants to do. The problem is that Nick has no idea who he really is or what he wants. He’s only just got out of high school and has barely ever been out of his small hometown. He has no idea how to adult, and his parents still treating him like a child doesn’t help matters at all (not that he doesn’t still act like a child most of the time). There isn’t one right solution to this problem; Nick just has to figure out a way that works for him. To the author’s credit, she didn’t make the solution an obvious one, and it definitely didn’t end up being what I expected.
The Sex: Quite a few sex scenes to be found. Nick and Jai start off as fuck buddies so most of their early interactions are sexual. One thing I liked is just how awkward some of the scenes were. Nick starts off as an 18-year-old virgin, and it shows. He often has no idea what he’s doing, but he tries hard. Jai is more familiar to sex, but I think he’s more used to his partners having a bit more experience than Nick (that is to say, any experience). Their first sexual encounter involves a porta-potty and it’s not at all glamorous or unrealistically sexy. It’s also a failboat experience all around since it’s Nick’s first time, they’re in a disgusting portable toilet, and they end up getting caught, quite literally, with their pants down (well, Jai does, anyway). That’s not to say it was a bad scene, it was actually pretty entertaining, and the boys were having a good time before they were interrupted. Being interrupted seems to be a thing for them since it happens quite a few times, being funny and cringingly awkward in turns. Nick experiences his first time giving and receiving anal sex and he doesn’t go from awkward virgin to sexpert immediately, so extra points for that. All in all, the sex scenes were something I rather enjoyed reading, there were a lot of them but they were all different enough from each other and either humorous or romantic enough that I didn’t get bored reading them.
The Writing: Brilliant writing, totally solid. Also hilarious. I spent most of the time reading this with a huge grin on my face, and that was not so much due to the comedic situations in the book as it was to the wording. The language and the way things are worded in this is hilarious, even laugh out loud funny in some places. This is written in two (third person) points of view, Nick’s and Jai’s. They both have similar voices but one key difference is Nick’s stream-of-conscious internal babbling that is always entertaining to read. Jai has his moments, but it’s usually Nick’s wackiness that steals the show. Along with the hilarity, there are also quite a few tender moments between Nick and Jai and Nick and Devon that flow really well. There are also the more emotional moments with Nick’s family, Nick’s panic over not having his future all sorted out, and Nick and Jai trying to navigate their first relationship without realizing that they’re actually in a relationship. Lisa Henry manages to convey so many emotions and they all feel genuine. This book was a fucking delight to read and that was mostly due to the writing style (for me, anyway). (Note: Lisa Henry is also a fanfiction author and has written many fanfictions for the TV series Teen Wolf. Adulting 101 was never one of her fics, but the writing style is similar and Nick and Jai reminded me a lot of how she writes Stiles and Derek. Sterek is one of my OTPs, so the resemblance just made a great book even better for me. I imagine that not everyone shares this opinion, so, just a heads up.)
[Adulting 101 was published August 13, 2016, by Riptide Publishing, it’s available in both print and as an ebook]