MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewSpar spends the first half of the book looking backward, tracing how monogamy sprang from the plow, how the steam engine pried open a gender divide at work and home, and how the dishwasher set the stage for the second-wave feminist movement. When she is excavating this history, Spar carves convincing paths through mountains of academic and historical records. But as she veers into the present and pitches toward the future, her visions become murkier and her trail of evidence grows faint ... I don’t know if Spar is right about what the future holds, but her view of the present reveals some limitations. She can treat decade-old technologies as if they are vexing new developments ... Her section on developments in hormone therapy and their impact on gender expression mostly emphasizes her own experience straining to parse these changes, which she does not appear to have yet mastered ... Though Spar is interested in the cultural side of technology, the strict determinism of her argument — tech begets culture — can flatten the complex interplay of these forces. Spar plugs so many innovations and social shifts into her thesis, jumping from in vitro gametogenesis to hormone therapy to sex robots, that her insights can feel programmatic, and at times strangely dehumanizing ... a book that seems interested in human experience only insofar as it relates to some tool.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewKleeman approaches the future as a reporter firmly grounded in the present; her method is to journey to the frontier and take a long look around. The book leans heavily on conversations between the writer and various figures with stakes in the game ... In Kleeman’s telling, futuristic technologies are not accidents of history that drive unexpected social changes. They are designed to fit the worldviews of specific kinds of people—men, mostly—and are fueled by hubris, spin and private equity ... Kleeman’s exploration of the frontier sometimes leads her into the weeds. Her section on reproductive technology takes a long detour through Men Going Their Own Way, a ghoulish anonymous message board for straight men who have sworn off women and are also—perhaps not unrelated—largely uninteresting. But more often, Kleeman’s capacious curiosity opens up a kaleidoscopic view of an issue ... When Kleeman does venture to speculate...her insights feel earned. Perhaps that’s because she seems less invested in predicting the future than she is in questioning the people who are so obsessed with shaping it.
Aziz Ansari & Eric Klinenberg
MixedSlateModern Romance feels a bit like the sweet little brother to Neil Strauss’ The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. Like Strauss’ 2004 best-seller, Modern Romance styles itself as a personality-driven piece of pop sociology ... In contrast to the sex-obsessed PUAs and the wedding-crazy dating gurus, Ansari approaches relationships like an actual human being ... Ansari doesn’t ignore the particular ways in which romantic relationships have traditionally put women at risk. He acknowledges that the confusion endemic to modern heterosexual relationships represents a vast improvement on the rigid old scripts, which denied women professional and personal agency ... The sole bummer about Modern Romance is almost a deal-breaker: It takes itself too seriously. The book could be a fun, lovely little manual, but it has aspirations of being an actual sociological tract. The reader can intuit when Ansari-the-comedian is writing and when Klinenberg-the-sociologist is taking his turn, and it makes for a rocky read.
Nancy Jo Sales
PanSlateEven if you’ve managed to avoid other journalistic stakeouts on the subjects of sexting, sexualized cyberbullying, and Instagram fame, these stories are shocking, then enlightening, then boring. The element that’s often sorely missing from scaremongering teen trend stories—actual teenage girls, talking about their actual lives—becomes tedious when told 200 times.
PositiveSlate...[a] sweeping work of follicular anthropology...