Book review: The Awkward Age By Francesca Segal

What happens when strangers are asked to live together as brother and sister?

Blended families are not such an unusual occurrence these days.

But even though it has become commonplace, it is no less fascinating to watch what happens when two different families collide and are forced to somehow begin all over again.

The Awkward Age follows the love story between widowed Julia and divorced James. This is a second chance for both of them, and they plan to spend the rest of their lives together.

But Julia is also a loving mum to teenage Gwen, who hates James’ son Nathan. The stepbrother just cannot help himself when it comes to antagonising his new sibling.

As the tensions rise, Julia and James struggle to adapt to their new life as a family. And then there is a twist to the tale, and writer Francesca Segal takes us off in a completely different emotional direction, throwing up a lot of moral dilemmas and a whole bunch of “coulda, shoulda, wouldas”.

The two teens pile on the pressure, and leave their parents struggling to cling on to their newfound happiness. This is a story about romantic love, and the love parents have for their children, but which one will win?

This was the second book I read as a member of the Mumsnet Book Club. I was absolutely blown away by The Awkward Age, it was such a beautiful and witty story, told through the eyes of fascinating characters.

The story is about relationships, both between parents and their children, as well as romantic entanglements and friendship.

I found that I could relate to both Julia and Gwen’s sides of the story, as both told very different tales of how cracks start to show in their own relationship as the story unfolds.

I found it particularly nerve-wracking as a mother of two young girls reading this, as I thought toddlers were hard enough work. When it comes to teenagers, it seems like I am going to have my work cut out for me!

However equally, I found myself feeling for drama queen Gwen, who feels cut out of her mother’s life since James arrived on the scene.

The story is chockablock with moral dilemmas and debates that can keep you mulling them over for hours. What would you do? Would taking a different path make things any easier, any different? Should you put your children first above all things, even your own future happiness? Even if they are being totally unreasonable?

This book kept me thinking until long after I had put it down.

Segal’s writing is simply stunning, giving insights into the tortured minds of her characters while also making you laugh out loud.

She beautifully weaves in the rest of Julia and James’ family, each bringing their own tales of romantic woe and adding colour to an already gripping story.

This is a part coming of age, and part coming of middle-age, tale. While the kids are grappling with their own issues, challenges and choices, the parents are trying to figure out what their role is now their kids are about to fly the nest.

A thoroughly funny, enjoyable and entertaining read. I can only hope my own kids will not hit the teenage years with quite so much drama!

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