When Alex Lyons lands a gig writing snark-tastic posts for Chick Habit, a Jezebel-like website geared toward women, she’s delighted — especially since the job doesn’t require her to leave her tattered couch in New York City. The 25-year-old writer may have loftier goals, sure — ones that would take her beyond commenting on a celebrity’s erratic behavior. But for the moment, Chick Habit fills her need for a steady paycheck and allows her to stay in a place she loves with Peter, her supportive boyfriend. There’s time to branch out later.
Or so she thinks. As Alex learns Chick Habit may be bought out and a new hater website — Breaking the Chick Habit, designed to sully the reputations of CH’s core writers — launches, Alex feels intense pressure from the higher-ups to rake in the page views. A website’s stats are its lifeblood, after all, and the CH women are in competition for the most controversial (i.e. viral) stories.
After a shocking video lands in Alex’s inbox, our narrator must decide whether to publish a story that could potentially destroy a young woman’s life and career — or push forward in her own interest, darn the repercussions. But when her digital world collides with her real one, the consequences could be extreme.
Jessica Grose’s Sad Desk Salad is a fast-paced peek behind the world of online superstardom. Grose herself is a former editor at Jezebel, one of my favorite ways to spend my lunch hour while eating my own “sad desk salad,” so I was really looking forward to a peek behind the HTML, if you will. (Bad blogger joke — sorry!) With its frenetic energy, witty dialogue and snappy characters, Sad Desk Salad was a fun way to spend an afternoon. And a clear reminder I could never make it in New York.
Narrator Alex is quick to draw readers into her world. The story spans a single week, and this glimpse at the complicated and fast-paced world of online journalism — or online gossip, depending on your perspective — was eye-opening. But for all the snark and attitude, the book also raises interesting questions about the ethics of sharing (and oversharing) in our digital age. Though no easy answer exists, it gave me something to chew on.
For readers interested in online publishing, blogging and our American celebrity culture, Sad Desk Salad is a quick read — and a fun one. Though no character outside Alex really gets beyond two-dimensional status, I felt connected with our narrator and hoped she would emerge relatively unscathed. (And shed the disgusting eyelet muumuu she dons for half the book. Ick.) I wished we could have gotten to know Molly, an aspiring editor from the Midwest, a little better — especially as she felt the most stereotypically bouncy and “New York, gee golly, YAY!” of the cast. Still, everyone served a purpose.
Fans of “The Devil Wears Prada” and avid readers of Jezebel, among other sites, will likely find much to enjoy in Sad Desk Salad. I whipped through it at lightning speed and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up Grose’s next book.
3.5 out of 5!