Published by Berkley
Publication date: October 6th 2015
Oh dear, oh dear. Beware the comparative blurb. As in “the next Gone Girl” or “it’s like Little House on the Prairie meets Twilight”. And I’m not warning writers, I’m warning readers. Do you fall for this? I like to think I don’t but obviously, I do. Today’s example is Copygirl, a novel set in an advertising agency. I saw the Goodreads blurb and was ready to start reading:
Mad Men meets The Devil Wears Prada in this lively debut about a young woman working at the hippest ad agency in New York…
Why not?! I loved Devil Wears Prada and even though I never got into Mad Men (don’t hate) it seems like the same kind of cutthroat creative industry, so a novel about a plucky young woman trying to get ahead sounded like the kind of sorbet reading that would cleanse my brain from a string of not-so-great books and reset my mind for some outstanding reading (yes, I am that kid who sees a barn full of dung and thinks there MUST be a pony in there somewhere).
Sadly, this was not to be. Copygirl does forego the tired trope of bitchy older female boss who is incapable of welcoming and mentoring the next generation, but that’s about the only one not found in the novel. Miranda Priestly is replaced by a sneaky egomaniac who creates a workplace that is a harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. The heroine, Kay, is a copywriter new to NYC who has no self-confidence and so gets pushed around by everyone at this male dominated ad agency. She pines for a boy who was her best friend back home and is her creative partner at the agency but who doesn’t seem to realize she loves him. He falls prey to the wiles of a glamazon, who ultimately turns out to be an empowered gal (despite having an affair with the boss and thinking he’s going to leave his wife for her), and helps out poor, badly dressed Kay.
Like any number of ad campaigns, Copygirl begins with a fun concept but does not deliver. Kay is a quirky female protagonist in an industry rife with testosterone (is there one that isn’t?). She’s fighting for her dream in NYC so there is all the grit of office politics and trying to survive on a salary that can’t support human life. Copygirl’s pitch is sold to the reader with witty prose and a cast of characters that embraces their stereotypes (leggy model colleagues, macho boss, frat boy co-workers)…it may not be the most innovative setup but it works for light, entertaining reading. Right up until it tips into the tired, done-too-many-times plot twist, which when it’s this obvious can hardly be called a twist. This is a disappointing turn for Copygirl because there are interesting ideas that could have sustained the reader. Kay’s hobby is making small wax dolls and filming avant-garde videos of them—her only way to let off steam about her life—and later in the novel the whole girl power aspect kicks in, which works for me no matter how many times I read it. Unfortunately, Copygirl crossed the fine line from fun to silly and that doesn’t work for me unless it’s kittens chasing their tails on youtube.