Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review: The Art of Adapting

By Melissa Amster

In trying to keep up with all the books that are out there these days, I tend to miss a few along the way. Thanks to Jenny O'Regan at Confessions of a Bookaholic, I found out about a debut novel that I would have missed otherwise. The Art of Adapting, by Cassandra Dunn, may have come onto the scene quietly, but I want to make sure everyone knows about this novel as it is definitely a page turner!

When change is the only constant, the first step towards happiness is mastering the art of adapting

Seven months after her husband leaves her, Lana is still reeling. Being single means she is in charge of every part of her life, but with two teenage children and a house she can barely afford on her solo salary, her new life is a balancing act made even more complicated when her brother Matt moves in.

Matt has Asperger’s syndrome, which makes social situations difficult for him and flexibility and change nearly impossible. Adding Matt’s regimented routine to her already disrupted household seems like the last thing Lana needs, but her brother’s unique attention to detail makes him an invaluable addition to the family—he sees things differently.

Matt sees his nephew Byron struggling to reconcile the part of him that is vying for popularity with the artistic side his father always stifled. He sees Abby, formerly an Honors student and dedicated athlete, wasting away as she skips lunch to run laps. And most of all he sees Lana, his once vibrant and independent sister, resigned to her role of mother and fulfilling everyone’s needs except her own.

After mistakes and missteps, Lana and her family come to discover that knowing where you’ve come from is essential to figuring out who you are and who you can grow to be.
(Synopsis courtesy of Cassandra's website.)

I was initially expecting The Art of Adapting to be similar to One Plus One (by Jojo Moyes), which is admittedly what drew me in. And yes, there are some similarities, such as a single mother who is trying to make ends meet financially, and a story told from more than one perspective. However, they stop right there and Cassandra Dunn goes on to tell a unique and touching story that I still keep thinking about. The family dynamics and relationships with other characters (friends, significant others, etc.) were all very strong and compelling. I could easily feel Lana's frustration with her mother whenever they talked about who knew Matt's needs best. I also got a thrill from the positive connections between characters. The story stayed interesting throughout and I couldn't stop turning the pages to see what would happen next.

While I don't often read young adult novels, I tended to like Abby and Byron's parts the best and couldn't wait until their turns would come around again. It makes me wonder if I should read YA books more often (don't worry, I'm not giving up chick lit). I just wished they would call their parents "Mom and Dad" instead of by their first names. And while I like that Cassandra fit in a character with Asperger's, I felt she could have easily moved the story along to feature him without needing his perspective. Matt was an interesting and likable character, but giving him a first-person voice sometimes took away from the plot, even when trying to fit into everything that was going on. I didn't feel like he did that much for Lana in comparison to what he did for his niece and nephew. Maybe it was subtle, but it seemed like other people in Lana's life had more impact on the direction in which it was going.

Overall, The Art of Adapting is a sweet and heartwarming story that I can tell Cassandra put a lot of love into. I even got teary-eyed at times. Of course, I was casting the movie of this novel in my head as I was reading it.

Lana: Lauren Graham
Abby: AnnaSophia Robb
Byron: Nat Wolff
Gloria: Tyne Daly
Abbot: Jon Favreau
Becca: Olivia d'Abo

Thanks to Touchstone for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Janine said...

This one sounds really good

Carol Fragale Brill said...

I was lucky to receive an early review copy of this novel. Here's the review I wrote on Goodreads.Somewhere between a 3 and 4 for me. Good story and writing, just took me a while to connect with the characters. That often happens for me when POV varies by chapter--I prefer stories told from one character's POV. With multiple POV's, it takes a while to get to know each character. The exception is that I felt I knew Matt, a character with Asperger's syndrome, almost immediately. The specific details, cadence and tone of his thoughts so often felt spot on. Bravo.
By mid-point, I knew and cared about the other characters, and for me the story paced picked up and kept me engaged.

The Book Chick said...

Sometimes I find that venturing out of my usual comfort zone produces great surprises! I love that you tried something that you may not have picked up otherwise and that you enjoyed it so much!