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Citizen Girl Hardcover – November 16, 2004
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Citizen Girl is the sophomore effort from Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, whose Nanny Diaries sent Park Avenue mothers running for cover and catapulted the duo to cult-like status amongst gossip literature's elite. This time around, our heroine is Girl, a twentysomething women's studies major whose liberal arts education led her to believe that saving women from worldwide oppression was as easy as reporting for duty at her local feminist non-profit. As Girl soon learns, no job is ever as it seems, and even the director of the Center for Equity in Community is not free from manipulating her staff in order to get ahead. As we follow Girl through unemployment and an eventual position as the Director of Rebranding Knowledge Acquisition for My Company, McLaughlin and Kraus invite readers on a raucous journey though the ups and downs of early 21st Century corporate life.
While at times disjointed and overly crass, Citizen Girl certainly has its moments. Most post-grad women will be able to identify with Girl on at least some level, whether it be returning to Career Services with her tail between her legs or forgiving her boyfriend for hiring a stripper at his best friend's bachelor party. ("I turn to find Buster slumped on my front stoop, soaked to the skin behind a proffered bouquet of hopeful white tulips.")
Some readers may tire of Girl's particular combination of naiveté and idealism after the first 50 pages, and the blatant stereotypes may wear thin after a while (Girl's boss at My Company is named Guy, and the woman they hire to turn things around is called Manley). Still, Girl's story is intriguing enough that by the end of the book, most of us will be rooting for her as she negotiates her way through the tumultuous battlefield that often is corporate America. --Gisele Toueg
From Publishers Weekly
McLaughlin and Kraus (The Nanny Diaries) are back with another tale of woe featuring a 20-something New Yorker searching for a way out of her miserable life. This hyperventilating satire features Girl, an ambitious feminist whose well-known girl-empowering boss saddles Girl with the worst tasks, steals her ideas and finally cans her for speaking out. After a desperate search, Girl is hired for a dream job with a matching dream salary. As the Director of Rebranding Knowledge Acquisition for My Company, she doesn't exactly know what she's supposed to do, but it involves dodgy activities with her boss and being made over to fit in with a new California client. "You're lucky to even be here.... We're about to buy you a few thousand dollars' worth of suits. So just go try on the Goddamn bikini.... Honey, what're ya gonna do about the bush?" As work goes from bad to worse, the only light in Girl's tunnel is Buster—a sweet boy/man who creates video games for a living and who fluctuates between fleeing Girl and being there for her. But when a new boss takes My Company into a whole new darker direction (think sex industry), Girl is forced to make a decision between morals and money. Though witty and biting in spots, this bitter tale is too schematic and strident to be much fun.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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This was a horrible disappointment from the ladies who brought us The Nanny Diaries. I feel as though this book was just thrown together quickly to try to capitalize on the success of their first book. Oh it's on my shelf, but it's been collecting a mountain of dust.
Once again with Citizen Girl we are asked to cheer for a main character who chafes rather than charms, with her bland character, lack of personality, and absence of any real zest that would make us interested in her life. Her morals were so wobbly that it went beyond realistic ethical grayness to simple insipid, vapid, stupid waffling. If only this time the characters surrounding her were as interesting at in the Nanny Diaries. This time they are so broad and vague that they don't feel like razor-sharp sendups but rather dull blades. And they certainly cannot carry the book, which leaves the book with . . . no interesting heroine, plot, supporting characters, or even a clear MESSAGE or VOICE, and therefore, no merit at all to me as a reader.
I tend to wish we had seen Girl try to stick it out with her boss from the first chapter, who showed some truly caustic wickedness, and therefore promise, that is was a shame to see her drop from the storyline so fast. Everything after that mostly a big "Huh?" and "Who?" and "Why should I care?" And what did Buster see in her anyway? Seriously! That guy was a bigger doormat than she was!
This is an extremely dark satire. But if you are starting from scratch and willing to give it some time, you might actually like it. The trick to appreciating this book is to put yourself in the situation of the main character, Girl, someone who thought that just for once she was going to have her dream job... then every likable part of the job is systematically chiseled away until her job has done a complete 180-degree turn and she is effectively asked to undo any bit of good that her original job was meant to achieve.
Readers who started with "The Nanny Diaries" are likely to be disappointed. "The Nanny Diaries" only requires that a reader have a sense of indignation in order to sympathize with the protagonist. "Citizen Girl" requires a deep and abiding sense of irony that is absent among mainstream readers. Although this is less approachable than "The Nanny Diaries," I really have to say that "Citizen Girl" is a much better story.