Abbi Waxman (Other People's Houses) explores the challenges of adulting in her warmhearted fifth novel, Adult Assembly Required. Laura Costello wants to believe she's a full-fledged grown-up, which means being able to handle everything on her own. But right after she moves to Los Angeles for grad school, while still struggling with the traumatic effects of a serious car accident that occurred a couple of years earlier, her apartment catches fire. Almost before she knows it, Laura finds herself adopted by booksellers Polly and Nina (whom some readers will recognize from Waxman's The Bookish Life of Nina Hill), installed in a quirky boardinghouse of sorts and trying hard not to fall for her neighbor across the hall, whom Nina and Polly call Impossibly Handsome Bob.
As Laura navigates challenges like the reappearance of her ex, her mother's overbearing commentary from the other coast and L.A. public transit, her new friends support her in staunch and often entertaining fashion. She gradually learns to stand up to her family and acknowledge her fears and anxieties (including riding in cars after her accident). With heart and humor, Waxman sensitively explores the challenges of leaving the nest while still loving your family, as well as learning to set clear boundaries and ask for help--sometimes in the same moment. Laura's problems may not disappear, but by the end of the novel she has better tools to deal with them, along with a patchwork but fiercely loving community. Laura's story, which includes cameos of multiple characters from Waxman's previous novels, is a witty, hopeful celebration of courage, community and spreading one's wings. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams