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.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.
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
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.
- 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.