Leigh Stein's novel The Fallback Plan opens like this: "In June, the monsoons hit Bangladesh. Chinese police discovered slaves in a brickwork factory...in other news, I moved in with my parents."
These first few sentences set the scene perfectly for Stein's debut, which follows protagonist Esther after she graduates from Northwestern with a drama degree and no job in sight. Stuck back home in suburbia with her parents, Esther is forced to babysit her for neighbors the Browns (especially once her dad starts charging her rent!).
But turns out the Browns have a lot of dirty little secrets, and before long Esther finds herself in way over her head with a crush on the dad, a new BFF relationship with the mom, and learning way too much about their heartbreaking family history for comfort.
Injected with the same clever, snarky sentiment as Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture paired with the earnest quirkiness of Miranda July's The Future, the story is an existential crisis of lost 20-somethings that pretty much everyone can relate to. While the book's plot could easily sway into overly self indulgent territory, Stein (who sharpened her writing chops at The New Yorker) avoids this by seamlessly weaving Esther's "shallow" problems into the Browns' "serious" ones, leaving Esther to realize that sometimes you have to suck it up and just grow up.
Just in time for holiday reading list, this coming-of-age story is a hilariously touching reminder that getting older isn't always easy....but it sure is entertaining.