cover image Happy for You

Happy for You

Claire Stanford. Viking, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-29826-8

Stanford debuts with a resonant meditation on what it means to be happy in an increasingly tech-saturated world. Evelyn Kominsky Kumamoto is grinding through the dissertation for her philosophy graduate program when she gets a lucrative job offer from the “third-most-popular internet company.” She is hired as a researcher for a new happiness app—Joyfull—which will use an algorithm and users’ answers to questions about, for instance, how likable they think they are, to measure users’ happiness and guide them toward an even higher rating. As the app gets up and running, tension brews between Evelyn and her boyfriend, Jamie, due to her uncertainty about marriage. Then Evelyn gets unexpectedly pregnant, and the Joyfull app brings her ambivalence into stark relief (“Was I likable? I clicked SOMEWHAT AGREE. I paused. I changed it to SOMEWHAT DISAGREE”). Her happiness score of 7.1 not only seems to result in her employment status remaining at the probationary level, it makes her feel further from understanding how happiness feels and what makes for a happy life. At turns thoughtful, funny, and startling, Stanford’s writing perfectly captures her protagonist’s aimlessness. Those who enjoyed The Startup Wife will find much to love. Agent: Jacqueline Ko, Wylie Agency. (Apr.)