Saturday, August 18, 2012

New Adult Project Review: "The Nanny Diaries," by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (audiobook)

With all the talk about New Adult, we often forget that there's one genre that has been embracing twenty-something protagonists for a long time: chick-lit. The Nanny Diaries is a great example of a New Adult success, especially considering that in addition to hitting the best-seller list, it was also made into a movie.


Goodreads Summary:

Wanted:

One young woman to take care of four-year-old boy. Must be cheerful, enthusiastic and selfless—bordering on masochistic. Must relish sixteen-hour shifts with a deliberately nap-deprived preschooler. Must love getting thrown up on, literally and figuratively, by everyone in his family. Must enjoy the delicious anticipation of ridiculously erratic pay. Mostly, must love being treated like fungus found growing out of employers Herm├Ęs bag. Those who take it personally need not apply.

Who wouldn’t want this job? Struggling to graduate from NYU and afford her microscopic studio apartment, Nanny takes a position caring for the only son of the wealthy X family. She rapidly learns the insane amount of juggling involved to ensure that a Park Avenue wife who doesn’t work, cook, clean, or raise her own child has a smooth day.

When the Xs marriage begins to disintegrate, Nanny ends up involved way beyond the bounds of human decency or good taste. Her tenure with the X family becomes a nearly impossible mission to maintain the mental health of their four-year-old, her own integrity and, most importantly, her sense of humor. Over nine tense months, Mrs. X and Nanny perform the age-old dance of decorum and power as they test the limits of modern-day servitude.

***


I sort of cheated with this one, since I actually saw the movie a few years ago. So as I was listening to this book, I couldn't help but compare them.

And while I did like the book, I thought the movie did a few things better. (The movie took several liberties with the adaptation. They changed the character from a college senior to a recent graduate, changed her name, her college major, and her family situation, and even added a best friend and love interest.) For one thing, the movie did a much better job at incorporating this character's outside identity (her family and interest in anthropology, for example) into the story. In the book, however, you don't get too much of a sense of the protagonist as being anything other than a nanny. Her major is in child development, and until you see her writing her final thesis near the end of the book, you practically forget that she's a college student. I also didn't understand the authors' choice of names in the book. A nanny named "Nanny"? Really? And Mr. and Mrs. X? Another thing I liked about the movie was that there was a reason for the Xs' anonymity. (The whole story was an admissions essay for an anthropology program, and it would be inappropriate to reveal their real names.) I also thought the movie did better with pacing.

One issue I had that was specific to the audiobook was the choice of narrator. Julia Roberts' tone often felt too flat, so Nanny's irritation didn't come across as well as it should have.

If the above description makes this sound like your kind of book, then I would definitely read it. But if you're on the fence about it, then don't feel guilty about skipping straight to the movie. It's a lot better.

ETA: Turns out the audiobook is actually abridged. I wonder if that's the source of some of my problems.

***



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