"Grown-Ups" demonstrates that Cheryl Merser has a nice, breezy writing style and a good deal of intelligence and heart. It's a pity, then, that she has such a solipsistic conception of her subject matter.
Subtitled "A Generation in Search of Adulthood," "Grown-Ups" is ostensibly about how the huge mass of people born during the post-war baby boom is redefining adulthood. In fact, it's an extended personal essay that is more about Merser and her friends and acquaintances than anything else.
Periodically, the author opens her lens wide enough to shed light on the sociological, economic and demographic forces that have shaped her generation; and it's when she takes the long view by putting these forces into their proper historical perspective that she is most genuinely illuminating.
Throughout the book, Merser also goes off into discussions of the views on life-cycle development put forth by such heavy-weight thinkers as William James and Carl Jung, as well as the now-outdated theories popularized in Gail Sheehy's "Passages"--theories whose obvious inapplicability to the present generation of young adults seems to have hit Merser as a great surprise. Although sometimes they sound forced and academic, these sections at least prove the author has done her library homework.