Nanny Returns

So…..I went to the beach. For two days. Then I had to leave my family to go home to finish Geometry and take a final exam and get final grades. Which was just SOOOOOOO much fun compared to digging my toes into the sand and baking like crazy for everyone there. (If you can’t sense my sarcasm, I think there may be something wrong with you. However, I did get 100% on my final, so it was pretty fun after all.)

And the point is…. I was at a beach, and I was trying to enjoy myself as much as possible. That includes beach reading :). Seriously, who doesn’t bring some kind of reading to the beach? Well, maybe my sister, who busies herself going back and forth between playing in the sand and in the cold morning water.

Me, I always bring lots to read. It’s not that I purposely miss out on the intense playtime stuff, it’s just that I’m kind of, I don’t know, acting like one of the grownups lately :). Sitting in the shade under the umbrella reading my book all peacefully.

I’m really avoiding the point here, aren’t I? Point is this- I was not reading Emma that afternoon at the beach (which I should’ve been, considering that I have 400 pages left and it’s due back to the library tomorrow). I read the Nanny Diaries sequel Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. And it was pretty good. Now I will continue on with all you should hear about the book, since that is wildly more interesting than my beach-going habits.

I love The Nanny Diaries, as heartbreaking as that book was. Which just shows how great it was- poignantly well-written and fantastic. I think I’ve read the book three times (at least) from the school library. I hated the ending, as who wouldn’t? Totally sad. Very very very upsetting. I think that’s part of why I reread it so many times; because my dad told me once that he often rereads or re-watches something to figure out why he didn’t like it. And I don’t think the writing decays at the end. The sense of voice almost gets stronger, more powerful. It’s the content, written so vividly, that upsets me.

This is not a book you can read without reading the first book. I promise that you can’t. You won’t get any of the references. The story doesn’t make any sense if you don’t know the pretenses of the relationships. There is a slight recap partway through the rising action, but that doesn’t really summarize much except the end of the last book. As in, the last maybe 20 pages.

So read the first book. And don’t see the movie. I’m sorry Scarlett Johansen, but that movie does not do the book justice in any way whatsoever. The book is poignant and wonderful and carefully cute, but the movie way over-Hollywood-ized. Scarlett Johansen does not make a good Nan. She’s too old-seeming in the movie. And I always picture Nan with dark brown hair, not Scarlett’s blond. That threw me off. Consensus- read the book, the first one. Avoid the movie. Read the second book.

Let me give a quickie overview of the book: After twelve or thirteen years abroad, Nan returns to New York with dog Grace and husband Ryan (H.H.! Yes he’s back!) in tow. After starting work on their fixer-upper in Harlem and Nan attempting to find consulting work, Grayer shows up on the doorstep one night totally drunk. He hasn’t seen Nanny in the twelve years since they moved away, and only Googled her since it came up in a discussion with his mother and he found the VHS tape from the “Nanny Cam.” Grayer’s family situation is totally fallen apart- dad Mr. X with a movie star, mother Mrs. X housebound and drugged, little brother Stilton attempting to get into boarding school to escape it all.

Nan, being herself and digging into the guilt she feels about leaving him all of those years ago, offers to help, and suddenly becomes sucked into the void of X family complications. And like so many years ago, she becomes deeply attached to the X kids, and the adventure that follows.

I feel like this book is much more “adult” than the last one. Maybe it’s just because they make Nan curse so much more that it just doesn’t seem PG to me anymore. The first one I could not distinguish between a YA and an adult. But this seems very adult. And it makes some adult jokes, about which I do not especially understand. But oh well.

I don’t think it’s quite as well-written as the first one. There is so much humor embedded in the first one that I can’t get through the first 50 pages without stopping myself to laugh for a minute (um, The List, anyone?). But I didn’t do that with this one. It just kinda seemed like with getting her Masters and a crazy life, Nan had forgotten her humor and some of her old sense of self. She grew up, and I’m not sure I liked it.

I did like, however, the part where she was watching herself talk into the Nanny Cam on tape when she was 21. That was so incredibly well-played and articulate. It’s exactly the type of thing you actually say in real life in retrospect to seeing your past self. That was realistic and spot-on.

I felt that as minor characters, Sarah and Josh were a little blown-up. Like, bigger than they should’ve been. It was distracting. The major characters were Nan, Grayer, and maybe Stilton. Then there was Mrs. X and Mr. X and Carter and Ryan and Citrine. And Gene and Ingrid. And Shari for a certain period. So a heck of a lot of minor characters. And with so many minor characters, having all of them with complicated story lines made it a little hard to follow. Even people whose story lines should be pretty clear, they added all of these extra elements to it. Unnecessarily complicated. It confused me and took away from the reading experience.

The book overall earned three and a half of five stars. It was okay. It just didn’t wow me with a sense of poignancy or fun that Nan initially had knowing Grayer. The voice isn’t as strong as the first book; the tone is more serious. That may not be bad for some readers, but it made me ad little dubious of the changes in Nan over that decade. Nanny Returns is a good summer beach read that I encourage you to read- so long as you’ve read the first one and are ready for something more serious in the next book.

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