Under the Influence by Noelle Crooks: book review

Under the Influence
 by Noelle Crooks
Overview: Harper needs a job. In New York, she's lost every publishing job she's had through no real fault of her own, and she's only staying afloat through the generosity of her friend and roommate, Poppy, covering the bills. When Poppy finds an ad for an influencer looking for a visionary support strategist, she convinces Harper to apply. Against the odds, she gets the job and begrudgingly moves to Nashville to work for a mommy blogger turned mega influencer (and maybe cult leader), leaving behind everything she'd built in New York and her bookish hopes and dreams. And, wow, is Harper in for a rollercoaster. Overall: 4

Characters: 4 Here's the thing with this book as a whole. It didn't knock my socks off. All the characterization is a bit shallow, and there's nothing particularly beautiful or deeply inspirational/impressive here. But it is tons of fun, and Crooks does a good job of creating these larger than life personalities that jump off the page. Sure, they're more caricatures than characters, but that's part of the fun of a high concept, slightly goofy book that examines a pretty absurd part of modern culture. Charlotte, the influencer in question, is almost unbelievable in how self absorbed she is, but also, we all know a Charlotte. Poppy is the stereotypical spoiled rich girl that tries hard and is genuinely nice but also pretty clueless. Harper is the scrappy heroine who learns how to thrive in her compromised environment, falls a bit too hard into her new job, and then has to break the spell for everyone. 
There are plenty of loose ends and relationships that get put down and then inexplicably picked up again. There's a romance that's very hard to buy into given the limited time we spend with these characters and the small amount of time they spend together. Everything in this book has to be taken with a grain of salt to be properly enjoyed, but if you can buy into the absurdity and not look too closely, it's a quick, fun read. 

Plot: 4 One thing this book does is move fast. There's always a new twist or turn or problem or surprise in each chapter. While some parts are pretty predictable, there are so many swerves that even if you know where it's going, it's still page turning. The book is running at 100 mph straight through to the end, and sometimes, that's exactly what you need. It's a light book that touches on darker themes but never dips all the way into them, and it'd be a good way to break out of a reading slump. 

Writing: 4 This is one of those reviews where I feel like I have to meet the book where it's at. What it promises is fun and absurdity, and on that, it delivers. There are definite flaws in the execution, but it feels hard to knock the book for those elemental things when it does a great job of creating an all encompassing, larger than life world to get swept up in. This isn't a super technical book. It's not about the sentence level prose because it's not trying to be. It's aiming to be a great beach read, and it's succeeding in that. So, as long as you know what you're getting into, it's a hard book to be disappointed by. 
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