Review: #Techbitch by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

Pretty cool..
Pretty cool..

Published by Penguin, 4 June 2015, 449 pages, £7.99.

Quick description: Everybody is saying it has a Devil Wears Prada feel but with role reversal, which I agree. The fashion world and tech world, two cut-throat multi-billion industries go head to head.

Perfect for: NA and up.

Plot: Imogen Tate, editor-in-chief of Glossy magazine, is a legend in the fashion world. But when she returns from a sabbatical to find her twenty-six-year-old former assistant, Eve Morton, behind her desk, she realises times are changing. Armed with a business degree, naked ambition and an iPhone, Eve announces she has been brought in to turn Imogen’s beloved magazine into an app. With herself at the helm. 

In this terrifying new world, Imogen is almost invisible. In place of her team of dedicated staff is a constantly evolving line of twenty-something bloggers at their desks day and night (‘Only losers need sleep!’), amateur snaps instead of elegant photo shoots, and a URL address in place of Imogen’s glossy pages. But Imogen isn’t ready to give up her hard-earned career without a fight. Where Eve has Twitter followers, Imogen has experience, talent and real relationships, and she’s prepared to fight for the fashion world she knows and loves. Even if it means going to war with a ruthless Techbitch . .

So this novel was great fun to read and veeery fresh. I mean, the time frame starts in August this year, so it is actually one step ahead of us. And this is what the novel is partly about; trying to keep up, keep current, keep it new, in fashion as well as tech. The plot is exciting, compelling and quite intense at times. Reading this book as a twenty-something or a ‘millennial’, as we are dubbed, I can safely say that readers of all generations would enjoy it. You don’t really need to be a fashion or a tech fan to understand the references.

It is filled with smart humour and some hilarious moments, especially when Imogen is trying to learn her tech-speak. Although I am not sure if the jargon is entirely spot-on. I mean, do people use LOL and ROFL anymore, especially in caps? And I don’t use apps to cater my every single need. Maybe its a New York thing. The detail and characterization is pretty pro. The prose is deep and carefully crafted. There are many interesting personalities circulating and in-depth flashbacks. However, I do think Eve’s character may have been OTT. But I do like the allusion to the movie All About Eve (1950) and the idea of a sinister younger/better version planning to take over.

Imogen is a very warm and lovable character. Many readers can relate with her, and not just 40-somethings. Her struggle to maintain respect is endearing and I was definitely cheering her on to succeed. But I do think the novel has a lot of labels, and seems to divide the working world into two generations: 20 vs 40. There seems to be a stick against ‘fierce female millennials’ who seem to be successful sociopaths. What about the men? And also, I can vouch that graduate life is anything but. Like in These Days Are Ours by Michelle Haimoff, there is a strong vein of unemployment and meaninglessness.

I do think the novel is very sharp in addressing the imbalance in today’s society and many problematic issues such as renovation vs ageism, social networking vs physical contact, eco-friendly vs energy usage. It doesn’t have to be one of the other, and the novel does well to prove that. It also covers the ‘be better’ lifestyle that is enforced on us to compete with others. Self-confidence and insecurities are pushed to extremes. And the novel also looks at the seriousness of cyber-bullying.

I read the book on the side of tech. I am not a sav, but I do think we should embrace technology, not look down on it. It irritates me when people don’t take social networking that seriously, perhaps because it reminds them that they are getting older. I mean, I would probably feel the same way in twenty years time. What people don’t seem to get is that the internet is not a side-dish. It exists on its own. It has its own language, culture and grows by itself. The novel does well to reconcile negative attitudes.

Can I also say I love the UK cover! Plastic inserts and twitter speak on the inside cover really match the themes of creativity and innovation- which really, when everything is changing, are the two things we will always cherish and nurture.

Connect with the authors: @Lucy_Sykes @JoPiazza

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