Thursday, January 24, 2013
Author: Michelle Haimoff
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette Books)
Pub. Date: February 28, 2012
I didn't hear about this book until nomadreader raved about it. I have to say I'm surprised at the little publicity it's received, especially with a cover blurb from Jonathan Tropper, "Smart, witty, honest, and never anything less than utterly engaging." I will say that These Days Are Ours was and wasn't what I was expecting which I'll explain; but overall it was a quick and fantastic read that was iconic in its representation of modern day high society New York as well as in its depiction of what I'll refer to as the "quarter life crisis". It is essentially the story of Hailey and her friends after they graduate from college and try to figure out what to do next, set in NYC right after 9/11.
Despite the humorous authenticity of Hailey's (main character's) thought processes in the beginning as she tried to maneuver her way into the life of her crush, I did not expect the initial chick-flick/rom-com feel that I noticed. I also had expected that I'd immediately relate to the characters better. I mean, I knew I wouldn't relate to the whole "Fifth Avenue" lifestyle in general but didn't realize how far that lifestyle permeated; for instance, I have always worked, full time, before, during, and after college and felt that the lifestyles of the characters were too irresponsible, cavalier. I've always had an extreme streak of independence - never moved back in with mom and dad, have never bemoaned the woes of being an adult, etc. that separated my complete understanding of life from theirs.
But what did meet my expectations was that I was able to relate to the characters in a broader, more abstract way, as in schooling is finally over so what now?... as in entering and partaking in the reality of "the real world" that in your twenties you start to see from a new perspective such as learning that your parents are human and don't know everything. I thought this quote from one of the characters describing their work represented this well:
"And another thing that takes some getting used to is how seriously everyone takes this stuff. Like, the biggest account you could be on at BBDO, the account you would be on if you were rocking it, is Pepsi. And if you're somehow on Pepsi, the highlight of your life would be some new soda they were launching with even fewer calories than the old soda. And I'm sorry, but it's just hard to pretend to care that much about a lower-calorie soda when you've just been in college learning actual things." (p.155)
Writing these characters against the backdrop of 9/11 New York City adds to the whole "quarter life crisis" and the characters' startling realizations about what life does and will entail for them. It's a jolt into reality that I also experienced while in college. It's not what this book is about but it does have a part in teaching the characters about life and also about how their interpretations of it differ. The following is a quote from Hailey after she sees the debris at Ground Zero:
" Ground Zero wasn't the right name for this. Ground Zero sounded like a blank canvas. For now it should be called 'The Disaster Zone' or something. Ground Zero could be later, when the area was nothing but a desert in the middle of the skyscrapers. Emptiness. Dust to dust. Ground Zero could honor a time before accountants and stock market and buildings that loomed so large it felt like you were drowning." (p. 78)
After the book picked up, that "chick-flick" feel I mentioned earlier made way for a much more insightful and intuitive read.
These Days Are Ours is about life in your twenties, looking forward, starting careers, friendships, relationships, and just taking it all in. It's full of realistic dialogue, humor, sadness, and reality (told in part through the NYC nightlife). I read this in one day, almost in one sitting.
Rating: 4 out of 5