Book Review: Stepping Up by Sarah Turner

I’ve read previous books by Sarah Turner in her guise as ‘The Unmumsy Mum‘ and loved them – and I follow Sarah on social media too – so when I knew she had her first fiction book coming out, I hopped onto NetGalley and was chuffed to get an advance review copy.

Here’s the blurb:

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.
An unspeakable tragedy turns Beth’s life upside down, and she finds herself 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.
This is a story about digging deep for strength you never knew you had and finding magic in things that were there all along.”

I absolutely LOVED this book. All of the characters had something going for them – and you were rooting for them all, especially Beth, from the outset.

Now I knew Sarah would write about parenting a toddler brilliantly – and she did exactly that. Ted was a very believable little boy – innocent, but questioning; a distraction for everyone, but also a nightmare when he had a meltdown. In fact all of the relationships were written incredibly well – the sneaky teenager Polly – who was different with her Aunt than when she was with her Grandparents, Beth’s relationship with her parents – and with her best mate (Jory – purely platonic – apart from that one night in Winter 2015 that almost changed things……..) and the blossoming friendship with her octogenarian new neighbour Albert – who types his text messages ALL IN CAPSLOCK.

One minute you’re laughing out loud at something – the next you’re weeping – but isn’t that the sign of a brilliant book?

I loved the way that without even realising it, Beth became indispensable in a way she’d never been before – highlighted in Ted’s new bedtime routine, and how he needed Auntie Beth to put him to bed.

The scene at Polly’s parents’ evening had me giggling – a real catalogue of errors – but the relationship between Polly and Beth changed so much during the book, it was lovely, and really believable.

Sarah also wrote about grief incredibly well – and I suspect some of that is from personal experience too, as I know she lost her own Mum when she was a teenager. One bit really struck me – as it was exactly what a friend said after her son died, she hated the first New Year’s Eve because it felt like she was leaving him in the previous year and everyone else was moving on. Beth voices those same worries about the changing of the years.

There are various twists and turns as the book develops, and it doesn’t conclude in a ‘and everyone lives happily ever after’ way – but it definitely leaves you with lots of hope. I’d REALLY like to know what does happen to everyone, as I feel really invested in their lives!

The book is out in March 2022, and I would highly recommend pre ordering it – it’s fabulous.

A massive thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC – and to Sarah Turner for writing such a great book in the midst of a global pandemic and the home schooling nightmare!! It’s not often I give 5 stars on NetGalley – but I am for ‘Stepping Up’.

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