cover image NSFW


Isabel Kaplan. Holt, $25.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-82289-5

The daughter of a prominent victim’s rights attorney navigates the treacherous pre-#MeToo television industry in Kaplan’s well-crafted but unilluminating adult debut (after the YA novel Hancock Park). The unnamed narrator returns to her hometown of Los Angeles after graduating from Harvard and, after using her mother’s connections, begins climbing the ladder at XBC, an upstart broadcasting network. As the narrator internalizes fatphobia and unrealistic beauty standards, and capitulates to and chafes against the casual misogyny at XBC, she tries to stay afloat in an environment teeming with sexual misconduct. Most intriguing, though, is the narrator’s Sisyphean relationship with her famously feminist mother, who simultaneously longs for her daughter’s success and resents it. Kaplan takes on heavy topics with an appealing frankness and snappy prose but doesn’t offer anything new regarding the no-win scenarios faced by survivors of sexual violence when deciding whether to go public (“Come forward and your career is probably tanked. Stay silent and he won’t have to answer for any of it,” the narrator says to a colleague), and as a result her depiction of the double bind comes off as rather mundane. As a Hollywood coming-of-age story, this does the job, but those in search of a new take on the larger issues at play will be left unsatisfied. (July)