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Office Girl Paperback – July 3, 2012
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The Amazon Book Review
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"Along with PBRs, flannels, and thick-framed glasses, this Millennial Franny and Zooey is an instant hipster staple. Plot notes: It's 1999 and Odile and Jack are partying like it was...well, you know. Meno's alternative titles help give the gist: Bohemians or Young People on Bicycles Doing Troubling Things. Cross-media: Drawings and Polaroids provide a playful, quirky element."
"Odile and Jack are...two characters in search of authentic emotion...their pas de deux is...dynamic. Meno's plain style seems appropriate for these characters and their occasions, and the low-key drawings and amateur photographs that punctuate the narrative lend a home-video feel to this story of slacker bohemia, the temp jobs, odd jobs and hand jobs."
"Meno's book is an honest look at the isolation of being a creative person in your twenties living in a city...Cody Hudson's hand-drawn illustrations, which relate to the text only laterally, add a charm akin to the small doodles that break up long New Yorker articles. The photos by Todd Baxter add a third level to the package, helping to make Meno's book feel more like an artwork."
--The Daily Beast, "3 Must-Read Offbeat Novels"
"A beguiling and slyly disquieting storyteller, Meno forges surprising connections between deep emotion and edgy absurdity, self-conscious hipness and timeless metaphysics. In this geeky-elegant novel, Meno transforms wintery Chicago into a wondrous crystallization of countless dreams and tragedies, while telling the stories of two derailed young artists, two wounded souls, in cinematic vignettes that range from lushly atmospheric visions to crack-shot volleys of poignant and funny dialogue. With bicycles in the snow emblematic of both precariousness and determination, Meno's charming, melancholy, frank and droll love story wrapped around an art manifesto both celebrates those who question and protest the established order and contemplates the dilemmas that make family, creativity, ambition and love perpetually confounding and essential."
--Kansas City Star
"A wispy, bittersweet (emphasis on the bitter, not the sweet) romance, Office Girl is the story of Odile and Jack, a pair of alienated twentysomething bohemians whose artistic ambitions are being worn away by one soul-killing call-center job after another in Chicago."
"Office Girl is a bittersweet little love story framed by Bill Clinton's 1999 impeachment trial and the turn of the millennium...By letting his characters be emotionally vulnerable, even shallow or tritewhich is to say...real--Meno supplies an off-kilter, slightly inappropriate answer to the Hollywood rom-com. Meno is a deft writer. The dialogue in Office Girl is often funny, the pacing quirky, and some of its quick, affecting similes remind me of Lorrie Moore."
"Meno's books have become increasingly liminal and idiosyncratic. In this latest, it feels as if Meno has written the book he's been wanting to write for years, combining all of those classic elements of his previous work: the stop-and-start of youthful inertia, the painful purity of romance, the way childhood informs (i.e. wrecks) us as adults and a direct prose cut into vignettes and montage. He also works with longtime collaborators photographer Todd Baxter and painter Cody Hudson...Gorgeously packaged, it's like a Meno box set 15 years in the making."
--Time Out Chicago
"It might be a standard boy-meets-girl tale, if not for the fact that the boy likes to record the sounds of gloves abandoned in snowdrifts, while the girl has a penchant for filling elevators with silver balloons. It's 1999. Odile has left grad school while Jack's wife has recently left him; after both stumble into jobs at the same telemarketing firm, they meet, and it isn't long before he is supporting her attempt to create a whimsical, anti-establishment art movement."
--Time Out New York
"Office Girl might be Joe Meno's breakthrough novel. Set in 1999, Office Girl tells the story of a pair of young, intelligent drifters who decide to start their own art movement. It's a stripped-down experience of a novel which means Meno's crystalline prose has a chance to shine."
"Office Girl is a relatively simple love story: You know most of the beats and understand from the beginning how the story needs to end; the pleasure comes from the way Meno hits those beats, how he manages his characters and moments. And some of those moments are really excellent: Jack and Odile's drift toward a first kiss, for instance, or their lovers' conspiracy, mirrored in Cody Hudson's naive drawings. And the heavier ideas that Meno stuffs into the corners around his self-consciously slight characters--like an ongoing struggle with sound and music that's part of the last-act climax--give the book more weight."
--Philadelphia City Paper
"A lithe, winking take on the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl cliche, Meno's newest novel is like Perks of Being a Wallflower for the 20-something set--and just like that iconic novel of creatives-in-crisis, this one is quirky, clever, and full of bitten tongues and youthful dreaming. Add bicycles, fingerless gloves, and one of the most twee art projects we could have ever imagined, and you've got a charming and unpretentious hipster love story destined to be the next cult classic."
"Office Girl shelves neatly into the anti-establishment, punk-rock canon Meno created with books like his breakthrough, Hairstyles of the Damned."
--Onion A.V. Club
"Mr. Meno approaches his title character's potentially depressing combination of disadvantageous circumstances and poor choices with sufficient aesthetic distance to find levity amid the angst. And while Office Girl is a quick and easy read, it is not insubstantial."
--New York Journal of Books
"While Office Girl features illustrations by artist Cody Hudson and photographs by Todd Baxter, its real substance lies in the story itself. Set in Chicago right before the new millennium, Meno, a Chicagoan, explores the start of an art movement through the eyes of two twenty-something dreamers in this novel."
--Michigan Avenue Magazine
"Joe Meno's newest novel Office Girl, isn't some end-of-the-Millennium gloomy read. Rather it's an unconventional call to action encapsulating the lives of two 'creative souls' set adrift in urban Chicago at the end of the twentieth century...Don't be fooled by its lack of chapters and intermittent doodles, there are sections that you will likely have to reread before you can truly grasp Jack and Odile's motivations. At times it can even be a bit disheartening, but that is actually what makes Office Girl brilliant. Whether you are 13 or 30, it's the perfect book to pick up when that nagging feeling of unrest captures you over your current condition."
--Revel Rouse Magazine
"I was completely charmed by its boy-meets-quirky girl romance. Office Girl is unabashedly earnest. It's so sweet and sincere...The most important detail is the year: 1999, a moment of uncertainty in the world and the lives of the novel's couple...Today, when it seems that most media is hellbent on constantly reflecting on and reinventing our childhood and adolescence, it's refreshing to read a novel that can be nostalgic without being ironic."
"Office Girl is packed with whimsy and soft terror. It's emotionally affective and its scenes are sometimes too familiar, as if you have once been here yourself, in this same office, in that same bedroom, on that same street. It's the tale of a weeklong romance that cuts to the heart. At times you remember it like it was your own. Both Jack and Odile suffer from their own inability to translate their thoughts into words, and they possess a certain innocent, curious sexuality. There's nothing graphic here, but the feelings are laid bare. And, as if in a dream, you can watch those feelings winding themselves through Jack and Odile's increasingly complex layers of consciousness...It's a specific book about general rite of passage; an investigation of that strange, dream-like transition between youth and adulthood, where everything seems possible and terrifying and wonderful all at once. Meno does good here."
"Joe Meno's Office Girl draws the awkward love story of two twenty-somethings with grace and empathy in this exceptional novel."
"Wistful, heartbreaking, and melancholy, a sneakily tight manuscript that gets better and better the farther you read."
--Chicago Center for Literature and Photography
"With a format reminiscent of J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, Office Girl lets the reader develop his own ideas about each of the two characters...There is a spark. There is momentum."
--The Wichita Eagle
"The book is a love story but one with a different twist on your typical boy-meets-girl, then boy-loses-girl story...Office Girl by Joe Meno has an indie feel...Meno captures perfectly the fleeting thoughts of fancy of young people...Set in the whimsical, uncertain time of young adult life when you don't know what you are doing yet...What happens next is just like love...unpredictable. Joe Meno has done a remarkable job of capturing an age old story, in a brand new way. This is a bright read."
--California Literary Review
"The writing in this novel is crisp and clever. It's art that's at times beautiful without getting in the way of the story. Chicago becomes a character in the novel the way it does in the works of Nelson Algren and Saul Bellow, but it's Chicago that is between Algren's gritty streets and Bellow's upscale avenues...It's the kind of book that makes you blow off what you're supposed to be doing so you can keep reading."
"Young love. Bicycles. Art school. Joe Meno's hipster romance about a couple going against the grain bubbles with funny dialogue and the charm of a French new wave movie (chalk it up to the whole defiant-youth-run-wild thing). Black-and-white illustrations by artist Cody Hudson and photos by up-and-comer Todd Baxter set the mood."
"Fresh and sharply observed, Office Girl is a love story on bicycles, capturing the beauty of individual moments and the magic hidden in everyday objects and people. Joe Meno will make you stop and notice the world. And he will make you wonder."
--Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief
"I'm terrible, I bail on most books. Recent ones that delighted me the whole way through were...Office Girl by Joe Meno."
--Maria Semple, author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette, in the New York Times Book Review's "By the Book" feature
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Top Customer Reviews
Office Girl is about Odile and Jack. Both are twenty-somethings who attended art school but were dead-ended in meaningless jobs; Odile is sleeping with a married man, while Jack's wife is leaving the country and their newly-minted marriage. When they meet during the Chicago blizzard of 1999, they have a lot in common, especially that they need each other. In the pages that follow, Meno's characters explore nostalgia, expression, and pop culture and discover strength they didn't previously know about. Even though you've probably met the essence of these characters before, Meno's character development makes this brief but satisfying read recommended for a summer reading list.
Odile and Jack start an art revolution, which combines performance art (spontaneously breaking into a scene from a movie while on the subway), graffiti, and creating an imaginary persona, Alphonse F., to whom they attribute their "art." All the while, the two find themselves falling in love, experiencing all of the joy, comfort, insecurity, and doubts that young love brings, with the hopes and fears that come with opening yourself up to another person. And with love often comes self-discovery and the ability to make changes in your life, even if they may not be the right ones.
Joe Meno is at his best when he's capturing the angst, insecurity, and eccentricities of 20-somethings or even high school students, as he did in his terrific Hairstyles of the Damned. The book honestly feels like an aggregation of every quirky independent movie about a couple ever made. You can totally see this book as a movie, and in fact, I think these characters might even be more vivid on the screen than they were on the page. This was a tremendously quick read, light and enjoyable, with a hazy ending you may or may not like.
As a footnote, the girl's name is Odile, which she finds uncommon. I grew up in South Louisiana and that name was fairly common among the older French people. I still remember an "Aunt Odile".
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well wanted to give it 4.5 stars, but Amazon won't let me, so going with five because Ibthink the 3.5 it is averaging currently is a travesty. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Donna
Cute coming of age story about quirky, interesting people.Published on July 3, 2014 by Kathleen DesHotel
Have you ever fallen in love with a character in a book? This book has done that to me .Published on August 18, 2013 by scorcho
I did not enjoy this book. The book contained only empty words. I thought the characters were mentally challenged. Read morePublished on May 5, 2013 by Marlene Little
A very good novel. To my knowledge, Office Girl hasn't received the recognition it should. The book has the spark, flair and the punch of The Catcher in the Rye. Read morePublished on April 25, 2013 by Amazon Customer
After trying to slog through something big and boring, I picked up Joe Meno's Office Girl. This book was such a breath of fresh air. Read morePublished on February 27, 2013 by Sky
The characters, Odile and Jack, couldn't be less appealing. And even though they are supposed to be 19 and 25 respectively they behave like immature twelve-year-olds. Read morePublished on February 2, 2013 by Nancy Rossman
Enjoyed this book from the very first page. Quirky, interesting characters who move through an interesting plot line and
kept me engaged.