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Losing It

Losing It

4.0 2
by Emma Rathbone

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A hilarious novel that Maggie Shipstead calls "charming... witty and insightful," about a woman who still has her virginity at the age of twenty-six, and the summer she's determined to lose it—and find herself.

“A candid yet funny take on just what desire and love mean.” –The Millions

Julia Greenfield has a problem:


A hilarious novel that Maggie Shipstead calls "charming... witty and insightful," about a woman who still has her virginity at the age of twenty-six, and the summer she's determined to lose it—and find herself.

“A candid yet funny take on just what desire and love mean.” –The Millions

Julia Greenfield has a problem: she's twenty-six years old and she's still a virgin. Sex ought to be easy. People have it all the time! But, without meaning to, she made it through college and into adulthood with her virginity intact. Something's got to change. 

To re-route herself from her stalled life, Julia travels to spend the summer with her mysterious aunt Vivienne in North Carolina. It's not long, however, before she unearths a confounding secret—her 58 year old aunt is a virgin too. In the unrelenting heat of the southern summer, Julia becomes fixated on puzzling out what could have lead to Viv's appalling condition, all while trying to avoid the same fate.

Filled with offbeat characters and subtle, wry humor, Losing It is about the primal fear that you just. might. never. meet. anyone. It's about desiring something with the kind of obsessive fervor that almost guarantees you won't get it. It's about the blurry lines between sex and love, and trying to figure out which one you're going for. And it's about the decisions—and non-decisions—we make that can end up shaping a life.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Stephanie Reents
…wise and witty…Losing It is cringingly insightful about sex and dating and all the ways we tie ourselves into knots over both…The novel also honors what it feels like to be a smart, overly self-conscious young woman without sugarcoating how crazy self-conscious women can seem. Rathbone slyly constructs a female protagonist who is a product of a sex-crazed culture but not a victim of it.
Publishers Weekly
In this charming second novel from the author of The Patterns of Paper Monsters, a frustrated 26-year-old virgin relocates to Durham, N.C., for a summer in a last ditch effort to lose her virginity. After moving in with her eccentric, spinsterish aunt Viv, Julia Greenfield takes on a menial clerical job at a law firm, where she meets and develops a fast crush on lawyer Elliot. The reader soon gleans what Julia learns only later: Elliot is less available than he seems, Aunt Viv has her own relationship issues, and Julia’s taste in men hints that she suffers from a kind of romantic amnesia. These tensions are brought to a predictable but enjoyable climax, in which Julia complicates her relationships with Elliot and Aunt Viv. Deeper than it lets on, the book’s distinct delight is the nimble dance its author plays with the somewhat frivolous conceit, embracing its pulpiness to entertain, and pushing it to surprising places. (July)
From the Publisher
Praise for Losing It

“A charming, truthful story about a lovably imperfect young woman whose virginity has overstayed its welcome; a witty and insightful novel about the mysteries of human connection.”
—Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements and Astonish Me

“a summer odyssey filled with awkward false starts and, hopefully, a happy ending.” —Cosmo

“A candid yet funny take on just what desire and love mean.” —The Millions

“A slightly neurotic and wholly hilarious meditation on the difference between love and lust, The One and close enough, Losing It is about so much more than a quest for sex: It's a confrontational narrative about all the other stuff that goes along with it, and the intimate decisions we make that shape our lives for better — and worse.” —Refinery29

"Every single page of Emma Rathbone's Losing It contains a line so funny, so awkward, so perfect, that you do not want this momentous summer to end. Rathbone's writing feels effortless, but it detonates in such wonderful ways. An amazing book." 
Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang 

“Emma Rathbone has the wisdom to understand that we are all the protagonists of our own stories, and the sense of humor to recognize the absurdity of that fact. With a delicate touch, Rathbone takes a fraught moment in one young woman's life and fashions a funny, sad, genuinely moving story from it. Her Julia Greenfield is entirely imperfect and completely sympathetic, and Losing It is a bright gem of a novel.”
Lauren Fox, author of Days of Awe and Friends Like Us

“Wry and moving, a story about a young woman scuttled in love and work who fears that some kinds of loneliness might be impenetrable. A heartfelt and incredibly funny novel.”
Thomas Pierce, author of Hall of Small Mammals

"A candid yet funny take on just what desire and love mean." —The Millions, The Most Anticipated Books of 2016

"A contributor to the New Yorker's "Shouts and Murmurs" humor column, Rathbone reliably wrings the humor out of this situation, but more impressively, she manages to evoke its poignancy.... Amusing but also smart about people and unexpectedly sweet." —Kirkus

Praise for Emma Rathbone

"One of our best new writers." —Benjamin Percy 

"A voice that is at once heartbreaking and hilarious, and startlingly true." —Lydia Peelle

Library Journal
Without quite knowing how it happened, 26-year-old Julia Greenfield has ended up living in a city far away from her friends and family, stuck in an uninteresting job, and feeling essentially unhappy with herself. Somewhere in the past, something went wrong and she attributes it to still being a virgin. With a full life reevaluation in mind, Julia relocates to Durham, NC, moving in with her maiden Aunt Viv for the summer. Julia is determined to find someone to date. Soon she is tangled up in romantic daydreams of men in whom she has the barest interest, only to discover their many faults during some excruciatingly bad dates. This spurs Julia on to examine the positives and negatives of all the relationships in her life and gives her a more complete view of those around her and mostly herself. VERDICT Rathbone (The Patterns of Paper Monsters) has created a sweetly comical yet realistic coming-of-age story with genuine characters and convincing awkward situations. [See Prepub Alert, 2/1/16.]—Joy Gunn, Paseo Verde Lib., Henderson, NV
Kirkus Reviews
Will someone help this poor young woman with her virginity? Despite being reasonably attractive and chalking up a few near misses, Julia Greenfield has reached the age of 26 without having sex. Now it's all she can think about. "Untouched. Like a flower suffocating in its own air. Like something pickling in its own juices. Something that badly needs to be turned inside out, banged right." Her obsession with this issue is magnified by the fact that she's lost the focus once provided by her nearly-but-not-quite Olympic swimming career. Since she hates her job, there's nothing to keep her in the D.C. suburb where she's moved after college, but she can't go home because her parents have rented out their house and gone to Costa Rica. So she ends up spending the summer with her dowager Aunt Vivienne in North Carolina. Terrifyingly, Viv turns out to be a virgin, too, and the dull small town she lives in looks like part of the problem. Nonetheless, Julia forges gamely on. A contributor to the New Yorker's "Shouts and Murmurs" humor column, Rathbone (The Patterns of Paper Monsters, 2010) reliably wrings the humor out of this situation, but more impressively, she manages to evoke its poignancy. Julia's longing is revealed in moments like this, watching a friend with her boyfriend: "he put his hand on her chest, kind of fit his fingers above her collarbone as if it was a ridge on a rock face and he was going to climb her. I'd thought about that for a long time." Also nuanced is the uncomfortable relationship between aunt and niece, in which both withhold more than they give. Amusing but also smart about people and unexpectedly sweet.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Emma Rathbone is the author of the novel The Patterns of Paper Monsters. She is the recipient of a Christopher Isherwood Grant in Fiction, and her work can also be seen in the Virginia Quarterly Review and on newyorker.com. A graduate of the University of Virginia Creative Writing Program, Rathbone lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Losing It 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was simple, but the authors writing style pulls you in. Read the book in one day, loved it!
AliTheDragonSlayer 11 months ago
The blurb intrigued me and I was pleased to be able to read this as part of a blog tour. I’m not really sure how to categorise it other than a light easy read to fill a few hours. Julia is twenty-six and comes across as self-obsessed, not a particularly nice person and the only thing she tends to worry about is losing her virginity! At times during the book I did want to tell her if she was a little nicer and thought of other people rather than herself it might just happen! She isn’t happy in her current job (surprise!) she used to be a competitive swimmer when younger but failed to make the grade for the Olympics .. another side of her which indicates if she doesn’t get what she wants she throws a strop. With a sense of failure, not belonging or knowing what she wants to do she is a bit of a lost soul. So she heads back ‘home’ but to her dismay her parent’s have rented out the home so they can travel .. Julia finds herself with no option than to go visit her Aunt Viv for the summer. They are virtual strangers and the majority of the story revolves around their terribly awkward relationship. Julia manages to find a job, goes on some disastrous dates all with the expectation one of them will want sex! It’s only as she begins to unravel the curious behaviour of Viv she realises she is also a virgin. I never grew to like Julia I was hopeful that by the end I may be feeling her plight but her selfish behaviour especially towards Viv left me just wanting her to get ‘it’ over and done with. I’m not sure about Viv, she was a character with potential which we didn’t manage to unveil. The book itself is written ok, it does get more engaging nearer the end but it felt like quite a long walk in treacle before I got to any parts that kept me interested. Suitable as a quick escape from reality, or a holiday read. Thanks to the author, publisher and Netgalley for my copy.