THE UNDERWRITING by Michelle Miller


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A bunch of emotionally and morally stunted millennials run into trouble when they try to take a questionable dating app public.

Full of insider details and industry jargon from Silicon Valley and Wall Street, Miller’s debut novel is a seductive romp through the complicated $14 billion IPO of a startup called Hook, a dating app in which users give each other ratings and are evaluated according to a “cumulative Hook score.” The app has more than 500 million users, and ambitious CFO Nick Winthrop thinks a public offering could put him “on the precipice of becoming one of the world’s great leaders,” but first he has to convince CEO Josh Hart, a computer science nerd who hates Wall Street. Josh agrees but asks Nick’s Stanford nemesis, Todd Kent, an associate at the investment bank L. Cecil, to oversee the deal. Todd assembles a team at L. Cecil that includes Tara Taylor, an old crush from Stanford and one of the youngest vice presidents in Equity Capital Markets, frumpy analyst Neha Patel, and the lazy but well-connected Beau Buckley. The plot takes a surprising and absorbing turn when Stanford senior, Hook user, and former L. Cecil intern Kelly Jacobson dies of a drug overdose under mysterious circumstances. As Hook programmer Juan Ramirez discovers incriminating user data from the night she died, the team may have to make some tough moral choices. Told from many different points of view, the book is somewhat overpopulated with major characters. While some of the scenes and characters feel clichéd, others are intelligently observed, with fresh, well-paced dialogue in which characters deliver lines like, “There’s a difference between unemotional sex that’s respectful and transactional sex that’s orchestrated by an app.” The central mystery and the fun of watching the deal unravel drive the narrative forward, allowing just the right number of characters to develop a conscience.

A more intricate Devil Wears Prada for the tech generation.

Pub Date: May 26th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-399-17485-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2015


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