As I’m sure y’all are aware of by now, I’m not the biggest contemporary reader. It just doesn’t entertain me enough or hold my attention anywhere near to that of fantasy and science fiction. However, when I saw Startup by Doree Shafrir was one of the picks for April BOTM, it immediately enticed me.
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.
Startup was a very quick read. Pacing-wise it was very much set to cruise control. As the story is more of a character study and social commentary, it lacks any action or excitement to move it along. However, I never found myself wishing to hurry up and get to the end, I was actually very invested in the overall story.
The characters are where this novel really shines. I found them all to be incredibly realistic and so unique from one another that I never had any trouble with the multiple POVs. Mack is so your typical late-twenties yuppie, who is only ever looking at for himself and pushing his company for enough for him to become a millionaire. I laughed so much at his personality because he reminds me so much of those young entrepreneurs that are all over social media, trying to expand their “personal brand”. I know y’all know exactly what I’m talking about! Sabrina was certainly the most endearing character, however, I didn’t connect with her as much. Luckily I know that it’s really because of a generational difference and nothing else. Her problems were certainly not any problems that I deal with but I still loved how real she seemed. Katya probably had the most interesting storyline. She’s portrayed as the alternative and sarcastic viewpoint to her generation, since she doesn’t particularly buy into the whole tech scene culture. Unfortunately, she made a few decisions that I felt went against her character and ultimately led me to questioning her overall.
I loved that this book gives such an in-depth look into the New York tech scene. I always picture Silicon Valley when I think tech culture, so I really enjoyed how this story went against the popular notion and shows us a different side of it. I appreciated how Shafrir never sugarcoated it, but shows the ugly underbelly of the tech culture such as the long hours, overworked employees, and all of the companies that explode onto the scene only to crash and burn within a year. This isn’t really something you hear about very much, as the tech media only want to focus on the positives. I also thought it was very clever how Shafrir was able to use the tech culture to weave her narrative. All of the characters stories, decisions, etc. were all completely influenced by their position within the tech scene, especially in regards to their personalities.
If you’re looking for a quick read that realistically portrays a culture all millennials aspire to be a part of, then this book is the one you’re looking for. It’s filled with witty dialogue, real characters, and sarcastic social commentary that will have you giggling aloud. It also tackles an important contemporary issue that isn’t typically portrayed in novels.
Final Verdict: 4/5 Stars
Have you read Startup? What did you think of it? How did you feel about the different characters and the decisions they made?