Tuesday, January 28, 2014

20-Something Year Olds in Fiction

Last week for my Top Ten Tuesday post I shared my wishful elements I'd like to read about in a book.  One of those elements was to read more books about characters who are post college, but pre adulthood.  I got a lot of feedback from others, agreeing that they'd like to read more about these stories, too.  So this got me thinking -- what are those books??

Below I've compiled a list of some books, that I feel, would fall in to this category.  Now, not all are straight out of college characters (some may have never even attended), and not all are centered around the age old question: What will I do with the rest of my life?  I chose these books for many different reasons.  Some are just hilarious and made me laugh, which is something we all need to do more of in our twenties (and yes, I can say that because I am past my twenties and into another decade).  While other books may have a heavy focus on romance, something that is valuable in all the books I read.

But most importantly, these stories have a common thread and that is managing life as a twenty-something year old.  Each character comes from different backgrounds and has different aspirations to where they want to go, but there's something in their stories, during this time of their life, that make it so interesting to read.

I have not read all of these books, and I will make note of the ones I have so that I can give proper recommendations based on my opinion of it.  If you see a book below that you have read, please let me know.  I'd love to know what you thought about it.  And of course, please recommend more 20-something year old character titles.  I've created a shelf on my goodreads, that can be found here, & I will add to it as more recs come in.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
"Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . "

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now- reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ? [goodreads]
Read my thoughts on Attachments: CLICK HERE

Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo
Holly Yarkov has a boyfriend who is a gift from the universe. She has a job that fulfils her even as it wears her down. She has a core group of friends from high school. And she has a layer of steel around her heart that is beginning to tarnish. Just as she is reaching for a future she can't quite see, Holly is borne back into the past by memories of her beloved father, and of the boy-who-might-have-been...

Grief and longing run like veins of quicksilver through this beautiful novel, at once gloriously funny and achingly sad.

Laura's confident, astute and witty voice has already been recognised with the success of Good Oil, with North American English rights sold to Knopf and German language rights sold to Arena. It was also shortlisted for the Prime Minister's
Literary Awards. Her second novel is extraordinary and bittersweet – and shows us exactly what it is like to be a young person today – navigating the complexities of work, love, family and how to pay the rent. [goodreads]
Read my thoughts on Holier Than Thou: CLICK HERE

Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar
Carly has dropped out of uni to spend her days surfing and her nights working as a cook in a Manly café. Surfing is the one thing she loves doing … and the only thing that helps her stop thinking about what happened two years ago at schoolies week.

And then Carly meets Ryan, a local at the break, fresh out of jail. When Ryan learns the truth, Carly has to decide. Will she let the past bury her? Or can she let go of her anger and shame, and find the courage to be happy? [goodreads]

Read my thoughts on Raw Blue: CLICK HERE

God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo
When I was twelve, a fortune teller told me that my one true love would die young and leave me all alone.
Everyone said she was a fraud, that she was just making it up.
I'd really like to know why the hell a person would make up a thing like that.

Written with the snap, glitter and wit of The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, God-Shaped Hole is a memorable, poignant love story that will leave you weeping with laughter. It is told in the wry, vulnerable voice of Beatrice "Trixie" Jordan who replies to a personal ad, "If your intentions are pure I am seeking a friend for the end of the world."

In doing so, she meets Jacob Grace, a charming, effervescent thirty-something writer, a free spirit who is a passionate seeker of life. He possesses his own turn of phrase and ways of thinking and feeling that dissonantly harmonize with Trixie's off-center vision as they roller coaster through the joys and furies of their wrenching romance. Along the way they try to come to terms with the hurt brought about by their distant fathers who, in different ways, forsook them.

This story will prove so touching you will rush to share it with a friend or loved one or even a stranger. [goodreads]
Read my thoughts on God-Shaped Hole: CLICK HERE

Sweet Thing by Renee Carlino
"You have to teach your heart and mind how to sing together…then you'll hear the sound of your soul."

Mia Kelly thinks she has it all figured out. She's an Ivy League graduate, a classically trained pianist, and the beloved daughter of a sensible mother and offbeat father. Yet Mia has been stalling since graduation, torn between putting her business degree to use and exploring music, her true love.

When her father unexpectedly dies, she decides to pick up the threads of his life while she figures out her own. Uprooting herself from Ann Arbor to New York City, Mia takes over her father's café, a treasured neighborhood institution that plays host to undiscovered musicians and artists. She's denied herself the thrilling and unpredictable life of a musician, but a chance encounter with Will, a sweet, gorgeous, and charming guitarist, offers her a glimpse of what could be. When Will becomes her friend and then her roommate, she does everything in her power to suppress her passions-for him, for music-but her father's legacy slowly opens her heart to the possibility of something more.[goodreads]
Read my thoughts on Sweet Thing: CLICK HERE

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, with just six months left of the three year deadline she gave herself to succeed. But so far, all she has to show for her efforts is a single line in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters and a degrading waitressing job. She lives in Brooklyn with two roommates-Jane, her best friend from college, and Dan, a sci-fi writer, who is very definitely not boyfriend material-and is struggling with her feelings for a suspiciously charming guy in her acting class, all while trying to find a hair-product cocktail that actually works.

Meanwhile, she dreams of doing "important" work, but only ever seems to get auditions for dishwashing liquid and peanut butter commercials. It's hard to tell if she'll run out of time or money first, but either way, failure would mean facing the fact that she has absolutely no skills to make it in the real world. Her father wants her to come home and teach, her agent won't call her back, and her classmate Penelope, who seems supportive, might just turn out to be her toughest competition yet.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is a funny and charming debut about finding yourself, finding love, and, most difficult of all, finding an acting job. [goodreads]

Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney
"I've been single for my entire life. Not one boyfriend. Not one short-term dating situation. Not one person with whom I regularly hung out and kissed on the face."

So begins Katie Heaney's memoir of her years spent looking for love, but never quite finding it. By age 25, equipped with a college degree, a load of friends, and a happy family life, she still has never had a boyfriend ... and she's barely even been on a second date.

Throughout this laugh-out-loud funny book, you will meet Katie's loyal group of girlfriends, including flirtatious and outgoing Rylee, the wild child to Katie's shrinking violet, as well as a whole roster of Katie's ill-fated crushes. And you will get to know Katie herself -- a smart, modern heroine relaying truths about everything from the subtleties of a Facebook message exchange to the fact that "Everybody who works in a coffee shop is at least a little bit hot."

Funny, relatable, and inspiring, this is a memoir for anyone who has ever struggled to find love, but has also had a lot of fun in the process. [goodreads]

The Last Enchantments by Charles Finch
After graduating from Yale, William Baker, scion of an old line patrician family, goes to work in presidential politics. But when the campaign into which he's poured his heart ends in disappointment, he decides to leave New York behind, along with the devoted, ambitious, and well-connected woman he’s been in love with for the last four years.

Will expects nothing more than a year off before resuming the comfortable life he's always known, but he's soon caught up in a whirlwind of unexpected friendships and romantic entanglements that threaten his safe plans. As he explores the heady social world of Oxford, he becomes fast friends with Tom, his snobbish but affable flat mate; Anil, an Indian economist with a deep love for gangster rap; Anneliese, a German historian obsessed with photography; and Timmo, whose chief ambition is to become a reality television star. What he's least prepared for is Sophie, a witty, beautiful and enigmatic woman who makes him question everything he knows about himself. [goodreads]

Why Can't I Be You by Allie Larkin
At one time or another, everyone has wished she could be someone else. Exploring this universal longing, Allie Larkin follows up the success of her debut novel, Stay, with a moving portrait of friendship and identity.

When Jenny Shaw hears someone shout “Jessie!” across a hotel lobby, she impulsively answers. All her life, Jenny has toed the line, but something propels her to seize the opportunity to become Jessie Morgan, a woman to whom she bears an uncanny resemblance. Lonely in her own life, Jenny is embraced by Jessie’s warm circle of friends—and finds unexpected romance. But when she delves into Jessie’s past, Jenny discovers a secret that spurs her to take another leap into the unknown. [goodreads]

Come See About Me by C.K. Kelly Martin
Twenty-year-old Leah Fischer's been in a state of collapse since the moment police arrived on her Toronto doorstep to inform her that boyfriend Bastien was killed in a car accident. After flunking out of university and cutting herself off from nearly everyone she knows, Leah's saved by Bastien's aunt who offers her a rent-free place to stay in a nearby suburban town.

Initially Leah keeps to herself, with no energy for anyone or anything else, but it's not long before her nurturing neighbours begin to become fixtures in Leah's life and a much needed part-time job forces her to interact with other members of the community. And when Leah is faced with another earth-shattering event, her perspective on life begins to shift again. Soon Leah's falling into a casual sexual relationship with Irish actor Liam Kellehan, who has troubles of his own, even as she continues to yearn for her dead boyfriend. Clearly she's not the person she thought she was—and maybe Liam isn't either. [goodreads]

Fingerless Gloves by Nick Orsini
Tonight will be the most difficult night in 25-year-old Anton Duchamp’s life.

When his best friend James Squire is mysteriously rushed to hospital, Anton begins a night-long journey that takes him from shady, marijuana-smoke-filled apartments to ex-girlfriends’ bedrooms, and eventually back to his childhood home.

As the night unfolds, so do new revelations about Anton’s recreational drug use and his past failures. And as Friday night drags into Saturday morning, he learns of James’s deteriorating health. In a universe that has seemingly left him without a specific function, it takes a single night for Anton to realize that no one will ever hand him a meaning or a purpose.

Fingerless Gloves by Nick Orsini, which won the Fiction Fast-Track prize for new writing, is a story about best friends and the mistakes we never knew we were making. It is a story about remembering – by any means necessary. [goodreads]

As I mentioned above, please let me know in the comments if you've read any of these.  Also, feel free to recommend more books with 20-something year old characters in them.  All of these are contemporary reads (since that's mostly what I read), but don't hesitate to recommend other genres too!


  1. I love this post! I haven't really read a lot of books within the New Adult/Adult genre, but some of them look really interesting and I have added them to my TBR list on goodreads! Thanks for recommending :D

  2. Someday, Someday Maybe was really cute. I think it's funny we call YA 'young adult' and then exclude young adults from the category. In my mind anyone <25 is a young adult.

  3. I love this post! Attachments sounds incredibly interesting and funny. I still have to read Rainbow Rowell's works (ack, I really do need to) and Holier Than Thou sounds like something that would make me feel emotional, in a good way. I read an excerpt for Never Have I Never and I think it's funny. I'm definitely adding these to my TBR list. Thanks for sharing, Ginger!

  4. Thanks so much for this post! These all sound awesome and exactly what I am looking for right now. :)

  5. I loved Attachments of course, and Why Can't I Be You was really good too. Allie Larkin's first book, Stay, is also very enjoyable - I'd especially recommend this one to dog lovers.

  6. While it may not be NA or YA, Joyland by Stephen King is about a 21-year-old, I found it to be very relatable. Also, Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore is about characters in their early 20's who are part of the "start up culture"

  7. Now I see why you asked me about Why Can't I Be You last week :) I would add How to Kill a Rock Star, in a lot of ways I think it's much more of a 20's finding yourself book than God-Shaped Hole. Allison Parr's two books: Rush Me and Running Back are probably my favorite early-20s books. Unleashing Mr. Darcy is another good one, I can't remember how old the MC is, I think 27 or so. Oh Lovestruck in London is another good one, I think she's a grad student if I'm remembering correctly.

    It's funny because when I was a teenager reading "chick lit" books like the Shopaholic series or whatever I always thought characters were in their 20s (and SO old, lol) but now that I'm in my 20s I feel like it's harder to find 20-something characters. Or maybe now that I've lived it I have a hard time finding books that I think are authentic.

  8. Love this list so much!! Bookmarking it! I read Holier Than Thou and enjoyed that! LOOOOVED Raw Blue! EEEE can't wait to read some off this list. Why Can't I Be You has been on my radar along with the Lauren Graham one and I own Attachments but the rest are new to me! Thanks for compiling this!

  9. This is a really wonderful list. Your 20s are an even crazier and confusing time in your life (as I'm learning) so it's really something to find books that reflect that. Thanks so much for the list <3

  10. Yes! Love this. I totally want more 20-something books too (which is why it went on my TTT list!). Check out Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman and Blogger Girl by Meredith Schorr. :)

  11. What an awesome post, Ginger! I know I'd like to read more books featuring 20-something year olds at times. My personal suggestion? Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess. I enjoyed that one tremendously last year.

  12. I'm bookmarking this post!

    I'd echo Maggie's Allison Parr rec - RUSH ME was one of my favourite books of last year. I've read Kirsty Eagar's RAW BLUE and thought it was really good, plus the Australian setting came through so strongly. Now I've to check out all the other recs.


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