Show me what you hate and I might show you that what you're pointing to is a mirror ... Halle Butler's short and scathing debut novel, is not a 'message' book, but if it were, that would be one of its messages. The old saw about how what we find annoying in others is often what we most despise about ourselves is on rampant, vulgar display in this sublimely awkward and hilarious book about two women who loathe each other only slightly less than they loathe themselves ... the dialogue in this novel is delightfully offbeat ... This is a grotesque and absurd book about grotesque and absurd people stuck in a system that is itself grotesque and absurd. It may be the feel-bad book of the year.
... one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time ... Droll, scatological, and delightfully subversive in its gender portrayals ... Butler is a ninja at conjuring Jillian’s peculiar mental state in her internal monologues, which are mundane, absurd, and foreboding all at once ... a hilarious portrayal of those urban twenty-something years—that age before you’ve made any choices to define yourself, and everything is a placeholder for an uncertain future that scares you ... a darkly comic allegory about America, a nation pathologically unwilling to make tough choices for a better tomorrow, but quite willing to trade substantive change for ephemeral satisfaction (i.e. spiritual junk food). Read that way, Butler’s novel is not just the funniest book I’ve read in a long time, but also one of the most important ones.
Jillian is populated with characters that are stuck ... The beauty of this novel is that Butler handles their respective misery with deft clarity and dry wit, turning expectation on its head, only to prove its worth in the end ... jealousy and self-loathing...to Butler’s credit, comes across as funny and self-reflexively real ... that is the real challenge in this novel’s narrative; in order to empathize with Jillian and other characters, one is forced to reconcile the ugliness within themselves ... a narrative that flitters between consciences, pulling from each a side-long perspective of the human condition and revealing it to be unpredictable and dangerous, and, nevertheless, righteous ... a frank depiction of modern indecency, and a reflection of a generation that lacks any shred of a moral compass.
... a stinging portrait of two discontented women clashing with the social systems built to oppress them. Butler slyly deconstructs the dominant understanding of happiness and success to conclude that it's all malarkey. Jillian is a subversive illustration of how contemporary detritus leads individuals to cycles of delusion and self-destruction ... Jillian's optimism and Megan's anger are defense mechanisms against their terrifying sameness. Both Megan and Jillian's offbeat personalities are written with wry humor and sly criticism, even if Jillian verges too close to the manic pixie girl stereotype ... Butler unequivocally renders conformity's insidious demand for standardization. Especially effective in indoctrinating children in the ways of uniformity and single-mindedness ... Jillian falls into the contemporary literary trend of depicting unlikable female characters enduring existential depression. A theme tiresome in its ubiquity ... By juxtaposing the two characters, Butler problematizes the polemic and subverts the patriarchal requirement for women to always be happy ... Butler coyly asks her readers to consider whether their contentious reading of Megan and Jillian is a reaction to the character's unlikability or the social inequalities they represent ... a frank account of discontent ... a depressing yet exacting criticism of modernity.
This striking debut...follows the flow of [the protagonists'] thoughts about even the most mundane tasks with a talent for building the sense of claustrophobia that threatens to overwhelm the characters. This attention to the damage seemingly small setbacks can have on someone who is on the edge of a breakdown lends the book’s journey heft, even though, objectively, not much happens. Still, it is a tight slice-of-life narrative, the sort of thing one might see in an indie film, and it will hold readers of literary fiction.
... [a] wickedly disaffected, sometimes-funny debut ... There is very little hope in this story but a great deal of outrageous, amusingly pointed meanness. Though it suffers from an oddly studious use of vulgarity, the novel has a degree of compelling, train-wreck allure. It offers up its characters for hatred and ridicule with such energy, obsessive detail and hopelessness that the reader can’t help but read on, through exasperating flinches of sympathy and recognition. A novel that reads like rubbernecking or a junk-food binge, compelling a horrified fascination and bleak laughter in the face of outrageously painted everyday sadness.
The duo’s total lack of self-awareness makes them the perfect yin and yang for Butler’s sly comedy of modern manners ... As both women fray, this poison pill of a novel moves to its arch conclusion. Butler’s aim is perfect, and her touch deft.