Alex Lyons is one of four writers for Chick Habit, a gossip blog that is quickly gaining a mass following. The writers are each required to score a total of one million hits a month, so the bitchier and more controversial their articles are, the more likely they are to draw page views. If a writer manages to find a juicy story, she might even luck out and have her post scheduled during the high-traffic lunch hour, when office workers across the city are surfing the web during their break while eating their sad desk salads.
Contrary to the exciting writing career her mother envisions, Alex’s life is actually falling apart. She wakes up at 6:20 every morning just in time to kiss her boyfriend before he leaves for work and is plopped on her couch less than five minutes later scanning the television networks and her online feeds to find material for the first post of the day. She’ll be on that couch all day, writing articles and consuming massive quantities of media, so paranoid about missing a scoop that it consumes her life and affects her relationship with her boyfriend. The only time she leaves the couch is to change into the same dirty muumuu and pop downstairs for five minutes to buy lunch (a sad desk salad, of course).
One day a scoop comes her way that will guarantee her million hits for the month: the daughter of How to Raise a Genius, Times Four author turned wannabe politician is caught on camera in a very private moment. Alex is torn between breaking the story — hence taking the smug author/politician down a few notches — or protecting the girl’s privacy. After all, the girl isn’t famous. Her mother is. Breaking this scoop could possibly ruin the girl’s life. The guilt spurred on by her work makes Alex completely neurotic.
Pen, Will, and Cat were inseparable in college. They met during the first week of their freshman year and formed a unique bond that no one could touch. They thought it would always be this way, but the trio suddenly dissolved after graduation, each person going their own way in a flurry of hurt and confusion.
Six years later, the three have moved on with their lives and are no longer in contact. Pen, whose point of view the reader sees the most, is now a single mother who is still reeling from her father’s death two years ago. She lives with her brother and is at a very confusing point in her life. Out of the blue, she receives an email from Cat, begging for Pen and Will to meet her at their upcoming college reunion. Pen and Will anxiously meet for the first time since their falling out and soon discover the reason behind Cat’s email; Pen and Will must put the past behind them in order to help their troubled friend.
The book is told in flashbacks that take readers through the highlight’s of the trio’s immediate friendship and ultimate demise. From the instant that they reunite, it’s clear that the bond between Will and Pen is still there, and they’ll do anything to help Cat and get the trio back together. And as much as I wanted to get on board with this story of unbreakable friendship, this is where the book derailed for me.
Jyotsna Sreenivasan’s debut novel, And Laughter Fell from the Sky, takes readers to two continents as her twenty-something protagonists struggle to find their place in the world. As the children of Indian immigrants, Rasika and Abhay often find themselves at odds with what their traditional parents expect of them. When the two old friends reconnect, the only thing that’s clear is their attraction to each other in spite of all the reasons a relationship would never work.
At twenty-five, Rasika is determined to be a good Indian daughter and have an arranged marriage, even if it means sacrificing her real desires. She came to the United States when she was eight years old, so she has slightly stronger ties to India than Abhay does. Rasika is materialistic and at times shallow, using her hard-earned money to buy herself nice things. She envisions herself a fashionable, well-kept wife with a large, tastefully decorated house and a wealthy, handsome husband. The image she presents to her parents is that of an obedient daughter, even though she has a secret side they know nothing about.
Abhay, meanwhile, has long since decided to march to his own beat: well aware that he’s falling far short of his parents’ expectations, he’s wandering through life trying to find his true calling. He’s an old schoolmate of Rasika’s younger brother, and though he’s incredibly smart and could have easily majored in something that would be lucrative down the road, he majored in general studies and doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He spent the year after graduation living on a commune, and all he knows is that he’s interested in Utopian societies.
On the cusp of her thirtieth birthday, Lara thinks she has it all: a successful career, a hot boyfriend, and supportive presents. For once, she feels like she has control of her life. Then comes her thirtieth birthday party, and her world comes crashing to a halt: as she’s about to blow out her birthday candles, a woman claiming to be her birth mother shows up at the door.
Adopted in Nigeria at the age of three to white, middle class British parents, Lara has always felt different. Cruelly called an “alien” by classmates, she’s always had to deal with the attention she drew from onlookers whenever she was out in public with her light-skinned parents. Her parents certainly could have handled it better: any questions Lara had about her differences were always brushed aside — she didn’t even know the full story of her Nigerian adoption until she was eight years old. As Being Lara develops, readers begin to see why Lara’s parents made the decisions they did, but as a result, young Lara was left to process a lot of confusing experiences on her own.
The arrival of Lara’s biological mother brings back all of the confusion that Lara had managed to bury deep with herself. Suddenly, this woman is addressing her as “Omolara” and trying to build a relationship from scratch. Lara’s main coping mechanism is to distance herself as much as possible.
At the age of twenty-nine, Conor Grennan left his job to travel around the world for a year. His plan was to spend a few months taking care of orphans in rural, war-torn Nepal. After that, party time. But the more time Grennan spent at the Little Princes Children’s Home, the more attached he began to feel to the young children who lived there. He was shocked when he eventually learned that many of the children weren’t orphans at all; their parents, desperate to spare their children from poverty and war, had paid huge fees to child traffickers to take their children away to safety and give them an education. Instead, the traffickers either sold the children into service positions or dumped them in the streets of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital.
When Grennan’s yearlong trip was over, he found himself desperate to get back to Nepal to help the children. He founded his own NGO, Next Generation Nepal, and moved back to Nepal. He and his associate ultimately decided that the most effective way to help the children was to assemble a team and trek into some of the most isolated areas of Nepal to locate some of the children’s families and reestablish lines of communication; the last time any of the parents had seen their children was when they had paid the traffickers to take them away years before.
Although the subject–and that gorgeous cover–intrigued me, I was initially apprehensive about reading this memoir (is it just me, or does the subtitle scream Western Savior?). Sure enough, I was cringing through first couple of chapters as White Dude made his presence known in the small Nepalese village he’s been assigned to. Another problem I have with the subtitle is that gives the impression that Grennan single-handedly discovered the plight of trafficked Nepalese children and single-handedly tackled it head-on. He didn’t; there are plenty of foreign NGOs and Nepalese organizations working on the gargantuan cycle of issues related to child trafficking. Grennan had a team of support during all of these excursions in Nepal–he had to, seeing as how he didn’t even speak the language(s).