cover image New Waves

New Waves

Kevin Nguyen. One World, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-984855-23-7

Nguyen’s stellar debut is a piercing assessment of young adulthood, the tech industry, and racism. Margo, a 20-something black engineer, and Lucas, a 23-year-old Asian customer service rep, bond over the ingrained racism at their tech startup employer, a messaging app called Nimbus, in New York in 2009. When Margo’s strong opinions lead to her dismissal, she drunkenly convinces Lucas to help her steal the usernames and passwords of Nimbus’s users. Margo soon regrets this, but nevertheless apparently leverages the data to land her and Lucas jobs at Phantom, a rival startup with an app that immediately deletes read text messages. Margo dies in a car accident, and Lucas is distraught and afraid, wondering if the accident was really an accident or something more sinister. He steals Margo’s laptop and decides to contact Jill, a struggling writer whose work Margo spent hours providing feedback on. He and Jill stumble into a relationship while Phantom’s popularity among teenagers pushes Lucas into a new role implementing a monitoring process contrary to the lofty ambition of the founders. Lucas’s scramble to meet the growing intensity of his professional and personal lives, as well as his jealous conviction he knew Margo best, leads to a series of missteps with rippling consequences. Nguyen impressively holds together his overlapping plot threads while providing incisive criticism of privilege and a dose of sharp humor. The story is fast-paced and fascinating, but also deeply felt; the effect is a page-turner with some serious bite. (Mar.)