Thirty-year-old Millie just can’t pull it together. She spends her days working a thankless temp job and her nights alone in her apartment, fixating on all the ways she might change her situation–her job, her attitude, her appearance, her life. Then she watches TV until she falls asleep, and the cycle begins again. When the possibility of a full-time job offer arises, it seems to bring the better life she’s envisioning within reach. But with it also comes the paralyzing realization, lurking just beneath the surface, of how hollow that vision has become.
“[A] definitive work of millennial literature . . . wretchedly riveting.” —Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker
This is my SPOILER FREE book review for The New Me by Halle Butler
I intend to use the ***ASPECT method for my discussion and will not spoil the ending.
Why THIS Book?
I cannot remember where I picked up this book, but I do remember that the back of the book blurb made me plan to read it near my birthday. It seemed the sort of coming of age / mid-life crisis / life is at a crossroads sort of book that might help me not fall into my annual birthday depression.
My annual birthday depression isn’t all that bad or anything… it is actually more of an annual birthday slump, but I do tend to get a bit moody, introspective, and nostalgic in the days between Thanksgiving and my birthday. I am usually able to shrug it off by the middle of the month… just in time for those feelings to come back full tilt at New Year’s, but I am now just procrastinating talking about this book, so I will get back on topic.
It’s going to be a short review this week y’all. This book sucked.
Think of a soggy day. The sky is dreary. Everything is kind of sour-smelling. It is… a random Tuesday in mid-January and there is nothing good on TV, nothing to look forward to, and all of your friends have moved far away. You simply exist in your humdrum sort of gray life with absolutely no hope of anything getting better.
And you are a tiny bit hungover despite not having any fun boozy memories to account for it.
That is what it felt like reading this book.
Writing Style / Character
We are mostly in the POV of Millie who is in England or Ireland or somewhere… -yawn- it doesn’t really matter to the plot or to Millie for that matter…. She has a boring job, she is possibly clinically depressed but also she might just be in a very long life slump. She can’t be bothered to wash her body let alone her apartment. She vaguely wants to change her life but she is unable or unwilling to break any of her bad habits or give a shit long enough to make anything happen. Millie doesn’t care about Millie and so it is really hard for the reader to muster up any emotion for Millie.
And then… randomly… we get 3rd person POV of a few other characters… just a tiny tiny bit to remind us that the world is not all Millie but not enough to really get invested or care about anyone or anything. These portions could have been scrapped and the story, such as it is, would not miss it.
I am going to break my own rule about spoiling. Spoiler: nothing happens.
Ok, people move around rooms. People breathe. There are a handful of conversations that happen.
But nothing MATTERS.
Is that the point? Is this book supposed to make me feel overwhelmed with the monotony of life and the dismal idea that nothing we do matters and that life is just a bunch of moving cogs in machines…. A series of meaningless events that tally up to… yawn… nothing whatsoever?
What was the point of this book? I have no idea.
There was one moment where something almost happened… but then it didn’t. And then… we get a weird POV shift thing and … maybe it did? Who the hell knows.
Entertaining / Would I recommend it?
I am hard-pressed to find something positive to say about it. I guess… it was short… but it dragged so even that couldn’t save it.
I guess…. It made me ecstatic that I am not Millie but not in the “whew, bad things happen to good people, I need to hug my kid and tell my mom I love her before it’s too late!” sort of way… not even in a “there but for the grace of the goddess or the luck of the draw or whatever, go I… whew!” No. I finished this book and went “I really hope I only paid a dollar for this!”
This book was about a sadsack who was sad and stayed sad and if there is a lesson here, I missed it. If it is a cautionary tale, it fell flat. If it is a “finger on the pulse of the struggles of Millennials” it failed. (Oh look… the New Yorker thinks that is exactly what this book is. Ummm no. Hey, New Yorker, maybe hire some Millenials and cut them some slack.
This book wins the prize for the worst book I have read this year. And I have read a few bummer books. I didn’t overly enjoy last week’s book but at least it was interesting.
This past week was Thanksgiving and thus I was busy as all get out with family stuff. Any other week… I would have read a different book.
Oh wait, I found a positive: No matter what I read next, it is guaranteed to be better.
*** ASPECT Method (I created this, I used it, feel free to do the same.)
A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include the overall tone.
S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?
P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?
E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?
C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?
T This? Why did I read *This* book?