Friday, September 8, 2017

Sociable: I want you to come up with a viral thing that goes viral

On my recent NetGalley jag, I got a copy of Sociable by Rebecca Harrington in exchange for an honest review.
I tend to request books from NetGalley if I'm already somewhat familiar with the book (thanks book-o-sphere) or I'm already a fan of the author. In this case I was drawn to the cover and the description seemed like something I could get into.

Elinor is living in NYC in a tiny, weird apartment (shower in the kitchen). She's hoping to get a job in journalism and finally manages to land a job at a startup Which is sort of like journalism. Think a BuzzFeed competitor (BuzzFeed exists in this book world.) She's not exactly tackling the tough topics like her boyfriend is, but she's had some pieces go viral, which is basically the only mission statement for so that works. But her boyfriend dumps her and she doesn't really seem to get along with her co-workers except for two men who insist on mentoring her. Can she make it in this world? Does she want to?

Here's the thing. The book never really went anywhere. It was around 250 pages but it all felt like set up. It was a very quick read but I was watching the percentage counter inch closer and closer to 100% and wonder when is the story going to start? You know in stories like The Devil Wears Prada* where we're setting up all the problems and then there's a montage where our main character is starting to figure things out. Think Andy and all her fancy new clothes.
But we still have the whole second act to go.

This book feels like we're riiiiiiiight before that montage starts and then BOOM, the book is done.

We have the set up where Elinor has the crappy apartment with her boyfriend Mike who is a turdburger. He is just an emotionally manipulative shithead. She has a best friend she's known since college although she doesn't seem to really like her. It's more like, she's the only other person she knows.

She gets the job a thanks to Mike's mom (someone Elinor desperately wants approval from) but it's not really what she's hoping for. There is no direction or management at There's no editorial oversight. She writes a piece about coffee that does well. I mean, I guess it does well. I mean, a few people say things about how the story really went viral, but it doesn't really go anywhere.

Most of the book is from Elinor's POV until we get a few sporadic chapters from the point of view of one of the senior members of, J.W., one of the only "real" reporters at the publication. From him we learn things like the website is in financial trouble and he's having trouble finding companies willing to provide sponsored content.

One of the other senior members of the company, Peter, decides he's going to mentor Elinor. This mostly means he says "I am mentoring you" and then asks her to send pieces his way for review, though he doesn't actually look at them. Elinor is pretty annoyed at this cos 1) Peter is basically her age (they went to school together) and 2) that is shitty mentoring.

J.W. hears about Peter mentoring Elinor and gets into a dick measuring contest where he decides that he should be the one to mentor her. He follows Peter's mentoring method so nothing actually changes for Elinor other than two men randomly say "I am mentoring you" in her general direction.

At one point we're able to read one of Elinor's pieces, something she really opens up and puts herself out there. Her writing, it is...not good. There's no introspection (though she seems to think she's making a grand statement) and it's just not well-written. Maybe that's the joke? I have to think it has to be purposeful cos Harrington's stuff (i.e., all the writing around this piece) is better but I don't really know what the purpose is.

So that's the stuff we do get. What we don't get is the act two. We don't really get her actually being successful, even if it's just successful by standards. I mean, her piece gets her on TV (but like, local TV, NY1) but it's not exactly what she thought. It's not really much of anything (sorry, spoilers, I guess. Not for the fact that she gets on TV, cos that's in the description but for the fact that it ultimately doesn't mean much). We get a few more scenes that really felt like they were going to be that turning point and then nope.

Elinor has no arc. There's no growth, no introspection, no anything. She basically ends up where she started.

Like I said, for the beginning I liked the writing.

I mean, OK, there were a few descriptions that made me go
Mike was propped up on his cylindrical arm
Note: Mike is not a cyborg.
He was wearing very dirty sneakers despite his old face.
Those are...unrelated things. Or maybe face age and sneaker cleanliness have some sort of correlation I am unfamiliar with.

But I could forgive these because overall the writing was entertaining. And sure, everyone is pretty insufferable (Elinor is super pathetic and also pretty self centered and as already established, Mike is an emotionally manipulative turdburger) but that's FINE. Or it would be fine if there was some growth from any terrible person OR if she really just leaned into the awful. It sometimes teeters on parody but never really makes it there. Which is too bad, I could have gotten behind this if it went there.

So yeah. I wish I had better things to say about this. I liked the start but as it became clear I wasn't getting an act two or any growth from Elinor (just LOTS of pining over Mike), I got more and more annoyed. It was a quick read. So.

Gif rating:
*Which, full disclosure, I have not read but I have seen the movie so I'm going off that. Also Meryl Streep is amazing. That is all.

Title quote from location 1045

Harrington, Rebecca. Sociable. Doubleday Books, 2018. NetGalley