Nina Kenwood’s second novel, Unnecessary Drama, is about 18-year-old Brooke, who has just left home and moved into a sharehouse in Melbourne to study at uni. She’s excited to start her adult life; she has a to-do list and an app for every eventuality, and her whole future – and new self – are just waiting for her to grasp them.
But then Jesse, her high school nemesis, moves into the sharehouse, and suddenly she has to navigate a disaster she could never have seen coming, while also trying not to break house rule number one: No Unnecessary Drama.
Brooke is a deeply relatable and very endearing character. Her anxieties are legion and her earnestness is palpable as she learns to navigate new life experiences while trying to keep everyone else happy, often at the expense of her own comfort and happiness.
Kenwood has perfectly captured the unique mixture of fear, joy, anxiety, freedom, and overwhelming responsibility that is those first few months out of home as a young adult.
There are moments when Brooke feels happily very grown up, like when she and her housemates sit down together with coffee to discuss the house rules. And there are also times when her youth and vulnerability are so pronounced that her anxiety practically leaps off the page. Like when she has excruciating pain in her abdomen and her housemate takes her to the emergency room; all she wants is to see her mum, but she also doesn’t want her to worry that she can’t take care of herself.
This book had me in turns doubled over with laughter, flushing with second-hand embarrassment, and gasping with delight as Brooke comes into her own, facing everyday disasters from a mouse in her bedroom to less than ideal feedback about her uni work to having to explain to her friends why she doesn’t drink alcohol.
Kenwood has found the ideal balance in tone between light-hearted and joyful, anxious and real, heart-warming and hopeful, and of course everything all turns out well in the end. This is a fun and deeply enjoyable YA rom-com about moving out and growing up, with a sweet enemies-to-lovers arc alongside the coming of age as a young adult plot.
I would recommend it to anyone who has ever been young and uncertain, creating a life for themselves out of home at the very beginning of adulthood, or who has made direct and intimate eye contact with an unexpected mouse and is trying not to scream about it.
Unnecessary Drama by Nina Kenwood
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication: 5 October 2022