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Review: Startup

Review: Startup

I was dazzled by the great cover design and interested in the premise of exploring the New York City startup scene through the eyes of women, but ultimately this story didn’t deliver anything new.

Startup by Doree Shafrir:

From veteran online journalist and BuzzFeed writer Doree Shafrir comes a hilarious debut novel that proves there are some dilemmas that no app can solve.

Mack McAllister has a $600 million dollar idea. His mindfulness app, TakeOff, is already the hottest thing in tech and he's about to launch a new and improved version that promises to bring investors running and may turn his brainchild into a $1 billion dollar business--in startup parlance, an elusive unicorn. 

Katya Pasternack is hungry for a scoop that will drive traffic. An ambitious young journalist at a gossipy tech blog, Katya knows that she needs more than another PR friendly puff piece to make her the go-to byline for industry news. 

Sabrina Choe Blum just wants to stay afloat. The exhausted mother of two and failed creative writer is trying to escape from her credit card debt and an inattentive husband-who also happens to be Katya's boss-as she rejoins a work force that has gotten younger, hipper, and much more computer literate since she's been away. 

Before the ink on Mack's latest round of funding is dry, an errant text message hints that he may be working a bit too closely for comfort with a young social media manager in his office. When Mack's bad behavior collides with Katya's search for a salacious post, Sabrina gets caught in the middle as TakeOff goes viral for all the wrong reasons. As the fallout from Mack's scandal engulfs the lower Manhattan office building where all three work, it's up to Katya and Sabrina to write the story the men in their lives would prefer remain untold. 

An assured, observant debut from the veteran online journalist Doree Shafrir, Startup is a sharp, hugely entertaining story of youth, ambition, love, money and technology's inability to hack human nature.

I’ve shared before the slice-of-life stories don’t work for me. This is a completely personal preference, but I hate open ended conclusions. That’s a little bit more of a spoiler than I usually include, but as it was one of the things that left me the most unsatisfied after an otherwise moderately compelling story, I needed to include it.

We have a tech CEO who is dazzled by his own brilliance, a young online journalist covering the tech scene, a mother in her mid-30’s in an unsatisfying marriage who’s half-in, half-out of the Park Slope Mommy world, and a slew of other men who are so clueless about their entitlement, in life, to sex, to money, jobs, you name it, that when their entitlement is pointed out, they make sure to point out that it’s not their fault that they’re smart, white, male, etc. These are all either characters I've met before, and in more successful narratives, or they're so close to the real deal that their antics, instead of making me chuckle, make me grimace. 

Some people have called this book a satire, but nothing about this felt satirical. It just felt like real life, like the real BS I encountered often enough while living in NYC and still encounter from time to time by the nature of the fact that I’m female.

I’m a huge fan of “Silicon Valley” (and fellow Sunday night series “Veep”) and know that the tech world provides plenty of deliciously horrifying tone-deafness from which to mine satirical gold. This book doesn’t achieve that.

None of the characters are particularly likeable, and that’s something that I sometimes enjoy in a narrative, but my biggest issue was being served up unlikable characters, with no one to really root for, no one undergoing any growth or change to speak of, and then as the pages grow fewer and fewer you begin to suspect there will be no real ending. And there isn’t.

The story did move along at a good pace, and at no point did it feel like a slog, I just didn’t like where the journey brought me.

I never like giving poor reviews of books. I so admire anyone who not only takes up the incredible task of writing a book, but who then also goes through all the rigamarole of the publishing process. I commend Shafrir for her work, it just didn’t work for me. 2.5 stars rounded up. 

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