by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Citizen Girl is getting lots of press because it's the new novel by the authors of The Nanny Diaries, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. I haven't read that book -- I'm not that interested in rich people and their nannies, I guess -- but Citizen Girl sounded appealing.
I was curious to read the novel mostly because it's about a girl living in New York City after she graduates college. People who've never had this experience might suspect the novel exaggerates what it's like, but living in New York when you're poor and just out of college is a very strange thing. Even though some seriously wacky stuff happens to the nameless main character, it all felt believable to me, because I've been there and had to make similar choices.
Some of the scenes in the book, like one where Girl goes back to her college's career center to ask for help after she loses her job, felt strangely familiar to me. Like authors McLaughlin and Kraus, I graduated from NYU, and I've been in the same situation: once you graduate, the school's career office refuses to help you find a job. NYU offered me the option of paying for career advice, but I couldn't bring myself to go that route, considering the school already had thousands and thousands of dollars of my money.
In the novel, Girl is feeling pressure from every angle. How is she going to pay the rent? If she takes a corporate job, is she a total sell-out? What does she really want from this guy she's dating? The pressure comes from herself, the pile of bills, her family, her boss, and her love interest, who all have different expectations of what kind of person she should be. She is in over her head and trying to stay calm, because she knows if she panics, she'll drown.
I think I identify with the novel's young authors even more than with the story itself. If McLaughlin and Kraus can write this convincingly about Girl's mental state, I suspect they've had a lot of the same real life experiences that I've had. And that gives me hope that even if I'm now living in sunny L.A., our lives might continue on similar paths. It's an encouraging thought when I sit at my computer typing away at my own novel.
I think one of the things I like best about Citizen Girl is that the main character is just a regular... uh... girl. She's doing what she can, on a daily basis, to keep it together as she struggles to define her own identity. Maybe at age 24 in New York, that's all anyone needs: Citizen Girl Power!
-- Lisa Beebe