Beth has never stuck at anything.
She’s quit more jobs and relationships than she can remember and she still sleeps in her childhood bedroom. It’s not that she hasn’t tried to grow up, it’s just that so far, the only commitment she’s held down is Friday drinks at the village pub.
Then, in the space of a morning, her world changes.
Beth is now guardian to her teenage niece and toddler nephew, catapulted into an unfamiliar world of bedtime stories, parents’ evenings and cuddly elephants. Having never been responsible for anyone – or anything – it’s not long before she feels seriously out of her depth.
What if she’s simply not up to the job?
With a little help from her best friend Jory (purely platonic, of course …) and her lovely, lonely next-door neighbour, Albert, Beth is determined that this time she’s not giving up. It’s time to step up.
If you’re after a heartfelt, entertaining novel that manages to be witty, sweet and NOT CHEESY (yay!), then Stepping Up is the book for you! I have a fairly strong aversion to clichéd, saccharine-sweet stories but this novel manages to beautifully sidestep anything like that.
Beth has never had any real responsibility in her life. She’s unorganised, chaotic and wonderfully strings-free – she’s single, has no dependents and spends a lot of time getting drunk with her best friend Jory. Then one day, her older sister Emma and her husband Doug are in a serious car accident. Doug dies, and Emma is in a coma. Beth, as the godmother to her young niece and nephew, agrees to look after them and suddenly, her life becomes very different!
It’s a book about family and relationships, trying to live up to expectations, the way grief can take so many forms and how you can grieve for someone even if they’re still alive. It’s got plenty of humorous parts to it, despite the subject matter – Beth’s observations and thoughts are really entertaining – and Jory is a great character. Although I could predict some of what would happen right at the start, the story still feels really fresh and entertaining. I liked that the potential love interests for Beth don’t take centre stage in this novel throughout – it’s about her supporting her family and the impact this has on her life, and her needing to ‘find a man’ doesn’t seem to be the be-all and end-all for her (despite her mother often asking her about it), which is a nice change from many other novels.
I struggled to put down this book. It’s so readable and felt like it struck just the right balance between its serious and lighter notes. The subject matter was dealt with so brilliantly and I didn’t want it to end. I’d happily read many more novels about Beth and her situation and I think the ending was just right.
My rating: 5/5
Many thanks to the publisher, Bantam Press, for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest review.