Are We There Yet?
- Author: Kathleen West
- Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
- Publication Date: March 16, 2021
- Publisher: Berkley Books
CONTENT WARNING: bullying
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book. I am providing my honest opinion voluntarily.
Among fake Instagram pages, long-buried family secrets, and the horrors of middle school, one suburban mom searches to find herself.
Alice Sullivan feels like she’s finally found her groove in middle age, but it only takes one moment for her perfectly curated life to unravel. On the same day she learns her daughter is struggling in second grade, a call from her son’s school accusing him of bullying throws Alice into a tailspin.
When it comes to light that the incident is part of a new behavior pattern for her son, one complete with fake social media profiles with a lot of questionable content, Alice’s social standing is quickly eroded to one of “those moms” who can’t control her kids. Soon she’s facing the very judgement she was all too happy to dole out when she thought no one was looking (or when she thought her house wasn’t made of glass).
Then her mother unloads a family secret she’s kept for more than thirty years, and Alice’s entire perception of herself is shattered.
As her son’s new reputation polarizes her friendships and her family buzzes with the ramification of her mother’s choices, Alice realizes that she’s been too focused on measuring her success and happiness by everyone else’s standards. Now, with all her shortcomings laid bare, she’ll have to figure out to whom to turn for help and decide who she really wants to be.
Middle school was a hard enough time, but adding in technology and social media just seems like a recipe for disaster. And this book makes it crystal clear how hard it is for kids and their parents.
There’s a bunch of different POVs in the story, but it actually added to the depth of the story rather than making it confusing. The story unfolds from the POV of 7 different characters, allowing us to see various sides of what is occurring.
I liked Alice at first, and felt empathetic towards her. But as her life slowly fell apart, her selfish and shallow nature was revealed. I started to see her as more concerned about how people saw her, rather than being concerned about what was actually occurring and how to fix it. Her behavior became more erratic, and she pushed away all the people who were trying to help her.
It wasn’t just Alice, either. Her friend Meredith grated on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard, too. She acted like she was better than everyone else, and felt vindicated in doing so. It’s like each of the moms in this book was in a competition to have the more perfect life, the more perfectly behaved children, and to be the more perfect parent. It ultimately led to a climate where they encouraged their children to avoid responsibility for their actions.
And the kids? They made horrible choices during the book, but let’s be realistic. They’re 12 years old. And kids at that age are known for making poor choices and doing dumb things. It just felt like the parents were all too busy trying to claim that their kids were little perfect angels, and convincing themselves that their parenting was flawless, so their children would never do anything wrong. Because just like the kids weren’t taking responsibility for their actions, neither were the parents.
One of the POVs was Alice’s mother, and she kind of irritated me also. She was a therapist, but insisted on pushing Alice beyond her limits, even after Alice had clearly stated that she wasn’t ready. It felt like for so much of the book, everyone was so selfish.
While there was a lot of blame being thrown around, there was also a lot of growth throughout the story. That’s what really saved the story for me. It made it feel realistic, as the parents learned how to navigate changes in their relationships with children as they grew up and began asserting their independence. And the kids started to learn that there were consequences for their actions.
I liked that therapists in session were portrayed realistically, but that they were also showed as having flaws in their personal life. So many books fail to portray therapists appropriately, but HIPAA was even brought up and the language even sounded right, which I, as a therapist, appreciated.
Halfway through the book, I wasn’t sure I liked where it was going, but by the end, I really did enjoy it. It was a quick and easy read with short chapters, making it easy to fly through the read in less than 24 hours.
Categories: Book Review