Saturday, November 30, 2019

Book Review: "The Nobodies" by Liza Palmer

When life knocks you to your knees, you can completely fall to pieces or you can hang on to at least a shred of self-esteem and dignity. Joan Dixon may be closer to the former than the latter at this point, since her journalism career continues to go nowhere, she's had to move back in with her parents, and she's applying for jobs that are far, far more junior than she should consider. But what choice does she have?

After landing an internship at a newspaper right out of high school, she thought she'd have a glorious career as a journalist, but it never materialized. And when a meeting with her old mentor leaves her wondering if she ever really had any talent, she's considering any opportunity, even working as a bar back (she apparently only needs to show one breast, which seems like a good compromise for her).

Joan applies to be a junior copywriter at Bloom, a startup tech company in Los Angeles founded by two college best friends, which is about to go public. She's easily one of the oldest people working there and she finds the culture intriguing, bewildering, and frustrating. She should feel good about the office's fancy coffee machine and the unlimited supply of snacks and beverages, but how can she reconcile a workplace where the employees care more about why the cafeteria stopped carrying a certain variety of ramen noodles than serious issues?

Even as she becomes close with her team, and may even be in the midst of a flirtation with a colleague, the journalist in Joan can't rest. So when she can't quite figure out what Bloom does beyond the buzzwordy descriptions she gets, she asks questions. When the answers to those questions don't satisfy her she starts to dig deeper. And then she realizes there may be some reality behind her sneaking suspicions.

When Joan starts doing some surreptitious investigating, she starts to wonder whether she's subconsciously trying to sabotage her chance at stability. Does she really think there's something worth digging into, and even if it is, could it be worth the possibility of hundreds of people losing their jobs if what she finds signals the end of Bloom? And when her newfound friends join in to help her investigation, should she let them risk their jobs just for the sake of companionship?

The Nobodies is an interesting character study about a woman relentless in her pursuit of her dreams who worries she might not have the stuff to make her dreams come true. Joan is so focused that throughout her life she's neglected relationships, friendships, family, and she wonders if all of those sacrifices were worth it given that she's left with nothing. But does that mean she should give up for good?

This was a quick read, and I enjoyed Liza Palmer's storytelling ability. I'll admit I had trouble figuring out just what Bloom did, too, so Joan's investigation was interesting, but it went on a little longer than it needed to. I loved the supporting characters in this story perhaps a little more than Joan herself, but I was still completely drawn into her story.

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