The New Me book cover

Cringeworthily hilarious in the best possible way, this is a satirical look at one woman’s attempts to find her place in the workforce. A lifetime of preparing for a successful career comes up against the realities of a cynical workforce. More important than the years of education and hard work she has put in is how socially competent she is and how she dresses. More important than even that is knowing the culture of success. As they say, fake it till you make it. But some of those faking it seem to know their audience a little better. That seems to be the problem for Millie, she cannot seem to understand her audience, and no matter how hard she tries, she keeps doing the wrong thing in the most awkward kind of way, mostly without realizing it. I found this one of the most significant aspects of the novel. What she thought was normal, even appropriate behavior, was looked down upon by her coworkers, and Halle Butler uses a nice device to get this across. While the book was mostly written from Millie’s perspective a few parts come from external perspectives, her coworkers’ perspectives for instance. I found this combination effective, contrasting Millie’s experience with her coworkers’ observations, and the large divide between the two: experience vs. appearance.

In an article for Vulture, Hillary Kelly describes a new micro-trend in fiction she calls “repulsive realism.” She lists Ottessa Moshfegh as the queen of this micro-trend, but also includes this new book by Halle Butler. With a culture obsessed with blemish-free life, repulsive realism focuses on the repulsive, but very real parts of life. What the difference is between this and “dirty realism” or “grunge lit” I’m not sure, but I am enjoying this trend and its direct contrast to the social media fueled obsession with the superficially perfect life.

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