Office Girl by Joe Meno
Released: June 2012
Publisher: Akashic Books
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Synopsis:No one dies in Office Girl. Nobody talks about the international political situation. There is no mention of any economic collapse. Nothing takes place during a World War.
Instead, this novel is about young people doing interesting things in the final moments of the last century. Odile is a lovely twenty-three-year-old art-school dropout, a minor vandal, and a hopeless dreamer. Jack is a twenty-five-year-old shirker who’s most happy capturing the endless noises of the city on his out-of-date tape recorder. Together they decide to start their own art movement in defiance of a contemporary culture made dull by both the tedious and the obvious. Set in February 1999—just before the end of one world and the beginning of another—Office Girl is the story of two people caught between the uncertainty of their futures and the all-too-brief moments of modern life.
Joe Meno’s latest novel also features black-and-white illustrations by renowned artist Cody Hudson and photographs by visionary photographer Todd Baxter.
It’s easy to write a review about the books that I adore and would encourage every single person in the universe to read. It’s even easier to write a review for a book that I loathe. But the stuff in the middle? The books that were decent but otherwise didn’t conjure up any emotions? Those reviews are the hardest to write. Such is the case with Joe Meno’s Office Girl.
Office Girl is a short novel about a romance that came and went. Most of the stuff in the middle is about Jack and Odile falling for each other while Odile subsequently tries “sticking it to the man” with her art projects. Maybe this is amusing you’re a fan of guerrilla art, but it left me feeling indifferent. For me, most of the book falls into the realm of mediocrity, though I did find the ending to be redeeming. I don’t mean that in a snarky sense either. I really do mean the ending was perfect. It doesn’t suffer from a case of the rom-coms, where everything is pieced together and wrapped up in a pleasant little bow. It seemed realistic, and despite its bittersweet-ness, it left me feeling positive and fulfilled.
I figured Office Girl was one of those books that has to be read by a certain age so it can resonate with the reader. Kind of like Catcher in the Rye, maybe. And considering I am around the same age as the characters in the book, I figured Office Girl would be the same kind of mind-blowing amazing that was Meno’s Hairstyles of the Damned back when I was in high school. Office Girl wasn’t though. Mostly I just found the characters to be kind of annoying and whiny and too angsty to be 24 years old. Okay, maybe I’m being a little harsh on Jack. He was actually a pretty interesting character, but Odile was too much of a hipster for me to appreciate. She caused me to suffer eye strain as a result of massive eye rolls.
I’m not saying I hated Office Girl. I’m not even saying I disliked the book. I just didn’t think it was as good as some of Meno’s works that I was introduced to prior. Had I not approached Office Girl with expectations, I may have enjoyed it more.