by Mateo Askaripour
Published January 5, 2021
by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating: 4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Darren is a managing barista at a busy Starbucks in Manhattan just waiting for his big break. When one of his regulars comes in alone one afternoon, Darren works up the courage to pitch a new drink to him. The customer always orders the same beverage, but Darren knows another drink would be better suited to him. Able to persuade the customer to try something new, Darren realizes he may have bit off more than he can chew when the customer is so surprised that he asks Darren for a meeting in his office.
Darren skips out on the meeting, claiming it isn’t the “right” opportunity. But Rhett, the customer, refuses to take no for an answer. And so begins Darren’s adventure into sales.
Walking into the Manhattan high-rise, Darren is taken aback by just how white and non-diverse the start-up is. Worse, racism seems to underscore every aspect of the company, from the names of the rooms, to the hiring practices, to how the employees see and treat one another. Sales is a sink or swim, dog-eat-dog world and it seems the entire company, except Rhett, may be against a Black man succeeding in “their” arena.
What did Rhett see in Darren that made him so special? And will it be enough to help Darren survive not only hell week, but a sales career in general?
This was a really fantastic book that tackles the super important and relevant topic of race and racism, as well as a multitude of related issues such as white privilege, reverse racism, gentrification, stereotypes, and microaggressions. Additionally, many aspects of the book almost felt like a self-help novel with life advice and sales tips and tricks scattered throughout.
Darren was a relatable and generally likeable character. It was easy to empathize with his rise and falls, relationships with other characters, and decision-making (though sometimes I wanted to shake him and yell ‘what are you doing?!?’).
I loved the writing style. The storyline flowed and I really liked that Darren often provided premonitions to let us know where the story was going, without really giving anything away. The plotline ended up in a direction I would not have predicted, but it worked well for the story and made the stylistic choices (i.e. tidbits of advice) really make sense.
I wouldn’t say this book has a happy ending or that it was necessarily a “feel-good” book, however, again, I thought that worked for story and made it much more realistic. Unfortunately, racism and classism very much exist and for many people who experience racism and hatred directed toward them on a regular basis, there isn’t a happy ending. This book was eye-opening in a lot of ways and really shines a light on white privilege and the lack of opportunities for minorities, impoverished, and disabled individuals.
I absolutely recommend this book and think it would be a great choice for a book club or buddy read.
Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, BookishFirst, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this novel.