What do you get when you mix startup business culture, a sex scandal, and a cast of characters interlocking in waves the audience couldn’t anticipate? Startup, by Doree Shafrir, a Book of the Month April choice, that I finally picked up. I was certainly not disappointed overall, and I’d give it a solid four stars. It fell short of five stars because the big “story” that drops in the novel dropped a bit too late for me to enjoy the consequences of it and see it play out.
Startup covers a few weeks in the life of Katya, a budding journalist at TechScene, her editor, Dan, Dan’s wife, Sabrina, a TakeOff employee, and Mack, the founder and CEO of TakeOff as their lives interweave and intersect as some ideas flourish, some falter, relationships are tested, and big stories are broken that might leave some people without a job at the end of the day. Mack’s relationship with Isabel, his employee, has gotten a little too complicated, and now he has to deal with the outcome. Katya’s relationship is teetering on the edge of disaster as her boyfriend rebounds from his own failed startup and she tries to climb the ladder of success at her journalism job. Sabrina and Dan’s marriage isn’t as happy as one might expect, and both are resorting to strange things to keep their lives afloat.
Overall, I think Shafrir crafts an interesting story that definitely feels modern and trendy without being too “hip” and in the moment. As much as it is a critique of startup culture, it’s also about women in this culture that’s dominated by men and trying to handle relationships within it, which are complicated to say the least. My biggest gripe with this novel is that the big “story” that the novel is building towards, which is supposed to threaten someone’s career, I wish the story had broken around page 175 instead of 250 so we could really savor the consequences, cuz they were delicious and provided a lot of juicy material that Shafrir didn’t get a chance to fully explore because she ran out of book.
Here is Shafrir’s bio, in her own words, “I’m a Senior Tech Writer at BuzzFeed News. Previously, I worked as an editor or staff writer at Rolling Stone, the New York Observer, Gawker, and Philadelphia Weekly, and I’ve contributed to publications including the New York Times, The New Yorker, Slate, The Awl, Daily Beast, Marie Claire, and Wired. ”
I grew up outside of Boston, went to college in Philadelphia, lived in New York for nine years, and now live in LA with my husband and dog.