Friday, June 8, 2018

Review: A Lady's Guide to Selling Out

A Lady's Guide to Selling Out
Sally Franson
Published April 10, 2018
A brilliant young woman navigates a tricky twenty-first-century career—and the trickier question of who she wants to be—in this savagely wise debut novel in the tradition of The Devil Wears Prada.        
Casey Pendergast is losing her way. Once a book-loving English major, Casey lands a job at a top ad agency that highly values her ability to tell a good story. Her best friend thinks she’s a sellout, but Casey tells herself that she’s just paying the bills—and she can’t help that she has champagne taste.

When her hard-to-please boss assigns her to a top-secret campaign that pairs literary authors with corporations hungry for upmarket cachet, Casey is both excited and skeptical. But as she crisscrosses America, wooing her former idols, she’s shocked at how quickly they compromise their integrity: A short-story writer leaves academia to craft campaigns for a plus-size clothing chain, a reclusive nature writer signs away her life’s work to a manufacturer of granola bars.

When she falls in love with one of her authors, Casey can no longer ignore her own nagging doubts about the human cost of her success. By the time the year’s biggest book festival rolls around in Las Vegas, it will take every ounce of Casey’s moxie to undo the damage—and, hopefully, save her own soul.

Told in an unforgettable voice, with razor-sharp observations about everything from feminism to pop culture to social media, A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out is the story of a young woman untangling the contradictions of our era and trying to escape the rat race—by any means necessary. - from Goodreads
I have to admit, although I was interested by the blurb, the cover is really what drew me to this book.  I loved the hot pink and the fun typography.  Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to save this book for me.

Casey is a top performer at an advertising agency when her boss approaches her to work on a new project: recruiting authors and writers to become spokespeople and content creators for companies and brands in need of some good PR or new ideas.  The authors generally sign on rather quickly, but Casey begins to feel uncomfortable with the campaigns, worrying that these literary idols of hers are "selling out."  Combined with a fragile romance with one of her recruits and a fracture in the relationship with her best friend, Casey reaches her breaking point.

I had some major issues with this book:
  • Honestly, I don't think I got the gist of the book.  We see celebrities in car commercials and social media influencers with sponsored posts all the time, so I didn't quite get why it was considered "selling out" for writers to do the same thing.  It's inferred in the book that authors are an untapped market in this regard and that they are often awkward loners addicted to their craft who wouldn't stoop so low - but anyone can be bought if the price is right.  But to me, all of the writers Casey approached are adults, who knowingly entered these contracts and often for very good reasons - to get money to help an ill loved one, to start a charitable fund, or even just fund their own retirement.  I don't think they were compromising their integrity by posting about pens, granola bars, or tracksuits, just as I don't think Casey was "selling out" by working in advertising - I mean, wouldn't her English degree be an asset in a job where words are paramount?  It just didn't seem like a big deal to me; none of the products or brands were embarrassing, and if you could easily make some money that might make your life a little more comfortable or give you the freedom to do things like write more, why wouldn't you?
  • Casey's friend Susan was basically just a big stereotype - she's an aspiring author who tries way too hard to show that she doesn't approve of Casey's job, or the "establishment," or whatever.  She's always low on money and her apartment is a wreck because... she's an artist?
  • There were three instances of sexual assault/harassment, including one that the crux of the story relies on.  It was infuriating to see how everything was turned around on Casey and the slut-shaming and even death threats that followed.
  • The book felt very scattered.  Sometimes it felt like the main character was going off on tangents that took me out of the story.  I feel like the author was trying to make some commentary on artistic integrity and finding one's identity (seems to be a popular thing these days), but it didn't feel like it came together.
But, there were some things I liked:
  • The book felt thoroughly modern, from the rampant use of social media to (very unfortunately) the sexual harassment issues.
  • Casey was often very relatable.  She's in her late twenties, working at a job she's really good at but maybe doesn't think is her dream job.  She's always seeking someone's approval and has jealousy issues.  She was over-the-top at times, but I could understand her.
  • These characters loved to read!  Casey and Susan constantly share book recommendations and their heroes are authors.  It was really nice to see characters who enjoy books and reading.
2.5 stars

32 comments:

  1. Sorry it didn’t work out for you. I love that cover!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, I have to admit that just from the blurb I couldn't really understand what this book was about. Thank you for the honest review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! I think the premise for the book never came together.

      Delete
  3. I have seen a bit about this book, but your review is the first in-depth I've read. I think I can safely skip this one as it is just on the edge of what I might like anyway. The cover is nice though and I'm sure there will be those who are a better match.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, there will be those who will like this book; unfortunately, I wasn't one of them!

      Delete
  4. Oh man! I was really excited about this when I saw that cover and the bit about it being similar to The Devil Wears Prada. I honestly don't think that this one would be for me, either. I hope that your next read is more enjoyable. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Funny you mentioned the cover, because I remember this book because the cover is so fabulous. Sorry the story didn't meet the expectations set by its cover and blurb. I feel like the characters' reactions to the sexual misconducts were not so out of place (sadly), but the story being all over the place would bother me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, the sexual assault stuff was difficult to read about, and I was not expecting it at all.

      Delete
  6. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this one! I can't stand characters who are all stereotypes, so I can totally understand why you had issues. Better luck next time!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yikes, this sounds very stereotypical, which is something I hate and also a little insulting to writers as well. =/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really was kind of insulting! I was like, that's not how I think writers are!

      Delete
  8. It sounds like this book was a bit of a mixed bag, which is a shame. Especially because that cover is so pretty! Plus I don’t think there’s enough books out there actually about writers and bookish people in general, and I usually relate to those kinds of characters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, that's what drew me to it - the fact that it focused on writers. But it turned out to be so negative!

      Delete
  9. I stared at this cover for like five minutes until I realized her dress was a book. As modern as this book sounds it's almost as if it doesn't realize sometimes you can both be artistic and creative while also doing something to support yourself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly!! It took the starving artist stereotype to a whole new level.

      Delete
  10. Oh my, if I didn't read Jess' comment I wouldn't have realised that dress was a book *facepalm* What a pity this was as good as the promise in the blurb -- because it sounds *good*!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL, I have to admit, I didn't either!!

      I know, it had promise, but I don't think the premise played out well.

      Delete
  11. Yikes! I hope your next read is a five star!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. That's disappointing to hear this wasn't a better read for you. I was drawn to the cover as well and liked the comparison to The Devil Wears Prada, but I think I'd be turned off by the stereotyped characters and by how scattered it all sounds, like the author just tried to take on too many big topics in the course of one book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts though. Another great review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Suzanne! I think The Devil Wears Prada comparison is kind of accurate; young woman has job that gets out of control, things blow up in personal and professional life, and then everything works out. But unfortunately, the book never came together.

      Delete
  13. Yeah I can see how the cover would make me want to read this. Stinks that it had so many issues!! Sorry this wasn't better for you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Grace! I'm sure this will be the book for someone, just not me!

      Delete
  14. Like you, I think the cover is adorable, but the blurb doesn't snag me... I'm not fond of stories about people compromising their morals without learning and growing from them. Based on your review, it feels like these people are giving up on the best parts of themselves for... money? Fame? I think I would be annoyed by the characters, too. Thanks for your honest review! I'm sorry this one didn't work out for you.

    L @ Do You Dog-ear?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lindsi! I think the premise wasn't thought out enough. Oh, well - onto the next!

      Delete
  15. Ah slut shaming annoys me so much as do stereotypical characters! Definitely not the book for me although the cover is gorgeous!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, there were just a lot of things I didn't agree with in this book!

      Delete
  16. It is a really lovely cover, sorry it didn't work out for you. I agree, after reading the blurb, I wasn't sure why it would be considered "selling out" either. Casey does sound relatable, too bad the book let you done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right? I'm glad I'm not the only one who didn't get the selling out part.

      Delete

I'm so glad you stopped by, and I would love to hear your thoughts! Comments are always greatly appreciated!