Title: Adulting 101
Author: Lisa Henry
Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Run Time: 6 hours and 1 minute
Category: Contemporary, Romantic Comedy
At a Glance: This is an incredibly fun novel and, due to great storytelling and marvelous narrating, one I think you will want to listen to over and over.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: 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.
Review: The Audio: I honestly can say that after hearing this voice actor I cannot imagine anyone but Nick J. Russo narrating Adulting 101. The subtlety needed in presenting this novel lies in embodying the character of our eighteen-year-old main character, Nick, in every line of the text. Even the descriptive prose passages scream to be done with Nick’s personality in mind. Mr. Russo hits this dead on. With just the right blend of sarcasm, naïveté, and impossibly bright optimism, he presents this novel with such nuance that you are laughing within moments. The beauty of Ms. Henry’s writing is in the way she unpacks pieces of her characters in every word she writes. Mr. Russo uses his incredible voice and impeccable pacing to bring Nick, Jai, and Devon alive. Then he takes it a step further and creates unique personalities for the entire secondary cast of Jai’s and Nick’s families with the same finesse.
Not one moment of hilarity is lost in this narrator’s presentation, but what’s even more exciting is that we can hear Nick change and grow as the narration goes on. We can hear how he grapples with his father and what he feels is his Dad’s disappointment in him. You can hear Nick’s vulnerability each time Mr. Russo must narrate a portion of the story after Nick has once again lied to his folks or screwed the pooch. But Mr. Russo embodies Nick so perfectly that it is not long before you hear his breathless, spirited voice. Nick’s undaunted optimism and the older, more pedantic style Mr. Russo uses to voice Jai creates a perfect foil. You can easily envision these characters as Mr. Russo speaks, and it is simply outstanding and everything you need for it to be in order to thoroughly enjoy this great novel.
The Story: Once again I can marvel at how gifted Lisa Henry is when she turns her hand to pathos infused humor and lets her characters loose to simply, joyously be themselves. I venture to say that the pairing of Nick, a recent high school graduate and eighteen-year-old on the cusp of adulthood, and the pragmatic yet wandering soul, Jai, a twenty-five year old who runs from commitment, is near genius! The two of them meet when Jai is home for the summer building up funds to take off once again to another country simply to enjoy the freedom of travel in the unknown. It also may be that Jai has never really recovered from the death of his best friend and father many years before, and since then he has been a bit rudderless, knowing only that attachments are not his thing and life is meant to be lived to the fullest. Nick, on the other hand, seems to have his path all laid out. Unfortunately he has suffered all his life from panic attacks that leave him helplessly confused and unable to cope with pressures that are just overwhelming, from the SATs to the idea of going to college when he has no earthly clue what he really wants to do with his life. Thankfully, his best friend, Devon, has always had his back and is a unique support for Nick—but even he cannot help Nick break it to his parents that he does not want to attend college yet.
During a summer job that includes fun with his stapler and ogling a certain construction worker’s ass—ets, Nick makes a decision to pop his virgin cherry by offering Jai a blowjob. Unfortunately, for both of them, it takes place on the job site in a porta potty which has a faulty door lock. Needless to say, the resulting exposure means unemployment for them and an awkward end to Nick’s biggest fantasy. But, Nick is undaunted and pursues Jai and does indeed win him, if a no strings attached fuck buddy relationship can be winning. However, neither man expects something more to happen that fated summer where one can only say that if it’s unexpected then it will definitely happen to Nick.
Honestly, I loved this story—the walking magical disaster that is Nick was just so wonderful to get to know. He was honest to a fault (think word vomit with no filter), kindhearted, easily excited and undaunted despite his own penchant for lying to his parents to avoid really confronting them about his lack of enthusiasm for college and the life they want for him. The awkward and sometimes poignant distance between he and his Dad is cleverly concealed with humor, yet Lisa Henry allows small cracks and fissures to bleed through, making Nick so damn lovable and vulnerable. We watch him become a man in this story—well, we watch him begin to become a man, and not in the way you might think. He learns to give honesty a chance; he is wary to say the least, but in the end, it becomes his lifeline and enables him to step into a world that previously was unattainable to the panic-stricken youth he had been to this point. Honestly, he is just adorable and funny and really delightful to get to know.
Jai is just a perfect foil to the impetuous Nick. Older by a few years, more grounded and with a plan in place, Jai’s main ambition is to experience life to the fullest and take the adventure as it comes while never remaining in one place too long. He isn’t running from something, but rather, is allowing his more introverted side and, yes, perhaps his fearful heart to guide him by keeping him unattached emotionally and footloose at the same time. Then he meets Nick, and what begins as a fun dalliance morphs into something more, and for the first time Jai finds himself embracing the idea that maybe having a boyfriend around is not such a bad thing.
These two characters are sheer magic together and left me alternately laughing out loud and rooting for them to take that big step into unknown territory with each other. Adulting 101 by Lisa Henry is outstanding, and the narration by Nick J. Russo is absolutely spot on. This is an incredibly fun novel and, due to great storytelling and marvelous narrating, one I think you will want to listen to over and over.
You can buy Adulting 101 here: