The Nanny Diaries took the book world by surprise with its cheeky look at the battle between Park Avenue parents and their nannies. Writing duo Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus clearly had a feel for the zeitgeist, their 2003 tale simultaneously tapping into the mommy-lit trend and inspiring a whole wave of minion fiction. But judging from Citizen Girl, this isn’t an easy feat to replicate.
Like Nanny in Diaries, the protagonist of Citizen Girl—called Girl—is badly mistreated by her employer. This time the boss is the hypocritical feminist director of a nonprofit organization, who publicly advocates giving young women opportunities while privately stifling her own assistant. After she’s fired, Girl meets Guy, the head of a glamorous Internet company, who offers her an amorphous but well-paid job. Only too late does Girl realize her duties conflict with her beliefs: She’s expected to rebrand sexist content as “feminist” in order to sucker high-minded female consumers. She marinates in self-loathing, rationalizing that in the busted economy, everybody has to make compromises. Even her boyfriend Buster’s formerly cool job now requires him to listen to “a bunch of Atari corporate fucks talking to me about getting on the ball with my ‘market-share generation’ and ‘dividend creation.’ ” Stranded between its glib, high-gloss tone (complete with breezy chapter titles like “Choking on My Parachute” and “Make Lemonade, Dammit!”) and its earnest attempts to say something deep about the new economy and young women’s place in it, this is one confused Girl.