Book Reviews

Sociable by Rebecca Harrington

A Millennial Manifesto for a struggling generation

Song Pairing: “Everest” by Klangstof Listen Here / 2018 HELLO YELLOW REVIEWS Playlist

Sociable is by far one of the most miserable mirrors to society I’ve read in a while; I enjoyed it immensely. It went by rapidly and I consumed it like a long text from a rambling, off-putting friend. I’m a reader who really loves unlikable protagonists, so I was thrilled by the narcissistic optimism of the banal characters in Sociable.

Synopsis: Elinor and Mike are living the dream. They’ve both nabbed jobs as journalists at (somewhat) recognizable online news outlets. Mike is a Grade-A Privileged Douche, the type of guy who busts out the guitar at the party so that everyone will pay attention to him. He cries when he wants to be emotionally manipulative and gaslights Elinor like it’s his unholy calling. Elinor, sweet unassuming Elinor, is transfixed by her boyfriend’s awful personality, enough that when he’s blatantly hitting on other women at parties and being harmfully negligent of her needs, she finds a way to blame herself. When Mike ultimately leaves Elinor for other opportunities, she tries to throw herself into her new job at the news website Journalism.ly, with lukewarm results. Elinor has no idea what she’s doing, and neither do her coworkers. Though her (male) superiors at the office attempt to “mentor” her, there’s little to no accountability and everyone is constantly treading water to stay afloat.

Their plight is recognizable. Journalism has mutated into an amalgamation of opinionated blog posts, listicles, quizzes and in-depth articles detailing poignant issues with no solution. Surely this isn’t the case for more significant news outlets (maybe) but our generation is inundated with start-up, buzz-worthy, viral click-bait news.

The-grass-is-never-greener syndrome

Millennials are crushed beneath a stampede of unbridled anxiety. We earn hard-won degrees, often fighting our peers to the finish line (the myth that there’s not enough room at the top for all of us breeds relentless competition) then we’re told “there’s not a lot of opportunity out there. Find something, sink your teeth into it, don’t let it go. Everyone is struggling.” We pay an exorbitant amount in student loans, to be laden with debt from cradle to grave, with literally no guarantees of success. And what is success for us, really? Viable careers are vanishing.

Elinor clings to Mike as desperately as she does her identity as a journalist. Whatever torment he puts her through, to have him is better than to have nothing at all–the grass is never greener on the other side, and the only opportunities we’re granted are the ones we need to hold onto for dear life. It’s a toxic way to live, in relationships and professionally. It’s this anxiety that drives the undercurrent of millennial resentment, this ambiguous loss, that Rebecca Harrington parodies so well.

I cherish this painfully self-aware novel and I would recommend it to any readers who enjoy books that make you face-palm.

Thanks to Net Galley for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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