Identity, abjection, and consumerism are the primary concerns of this debut novelist.
A is worrying that she and her roommate, B, are becoming indistinguishable. A’s problem with her boyfriend, C, is an inversion of the aforementioned dilemma: what C sees when he looks at A is what he wants A to be—what she wants herself to be, but only sometimes, and not so much lately. Kleeman is, clearly, writing in a postmodernist mode. Her ambition is huge, and, at the level of the sentence, she’s amazing. “I had hoped happiness would be warmer, cozier, more enveloping. More exciting, like one of the things that happen on TV to TV people instead of the calming numb of watching it happen.” Those are terrific sentences, and there’s writing just like that on nearly every page. At the narrative level, though, this novel barely moves. Even after A joins a discount-store cult, her crises and epiphanies are pretty much repetitions—occasionally gorgeous repetitions, to be fair—of those that have come before.
Existential paralysis is a great subject for short fiction but a more difficult one for a novel.