PRIVATE CITIZENS by Tony Tulathimutte
Kirkus Star

PRIVATE CITIZENS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Tulathimutte’s razor-sharp debut tracks a group of recent Stanford grads anxiously navigating post-college life in mid-2000s San Francisco.

The two years since Steve Jobs gave their commencement address have not been particularly kind to Tulathimutte's struggling millennials. Not to Cory, a self-righteous bleeding heart, who found herself at the helm of a comically flailing progressive nonprofit; not to Linda, potentially brilliant and tremendously mean, who’s traded in her literary ambitions for a kind of drug-induced free fall; and not to her college boyfriend, Henrik, a scientist with bipolar disorder whose graduate funding has just been unceremoniously cut. On the surface, things seem to be going slightly better for Will, a coder with an endless stream of Silicon Valley cash and an out-of-his-league girlfriend (“It was easy to imagine another twenty-four years passing before he met a girl of Vanya’s caliber”), but in reality, he’s at least as unmoored as the rest of them. He’s struggling with his Asian identity—even being smart adheres to stereotype, he realizes—and while he’s clinging to the relationship (thus the $20,000 engagement ring, so far unaccepted), he has to admit the whole enterprise has started to feel a bit “like paying the upkeep on a prize Lamborghini.” Weaving their stories together, Tulathimutte follows the quartet through the post-apocalyptic landscape of post-collegiate angst. But as their lives spiral steadily out of control—Will becomes enmeshed in Vanya’s venture capital–backed “lifecasting” startup, to catastrophic results; Linda is hit by a car—the characters become more than caustic millennial punch lines: they become human. Witty, unsparing, and unsettlingly precise, Tulathimutte empathizes with his subjects even as he (brilliantly) skewers them.

A satirical portrait of privilege and disappointment with striking emotional depth.

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-06-239910-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2015




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