Mack's financial predicament may feel familiar to anyone who's watched the HBO sitcom Silicon Valley. Shafrir has upped the level of ridiculousness by making TakeOff's product — a 'mindfulness' app — seem particularly useless ... Shafrir makes an interesting and risky choice to show the harassment more from Mack's point of view than Isabel's. The book deserves praise for shining a light on the issue, a pervasive problem in tech. But Isabel just doesn't feel quite as vivid as the other characters, and the consequences for her don't seem serious ... For the most part, though, Shafrir's touch is just right in this debut novel. She's got the excesses of this industry nailed.
If the sexual harassment plot unfolds a bit predictably — men are dopes and liars, women are sisters under the skin — the cleverness of everything else is such that you almost don’t notice. Shafrir is priceless on topics from millennial office culture to the Russian immigrant lifestyle of Katya’s parents to the vast chasm dividing today’s 20-somethings from 30-somethings.
Smart, amusing, and light as an emoji feather, Startup is a coming-of-age novel for these digital times ... It is an easy world to poke fun at, with its insider references and silly-sounding catchphrases and, most of all, its ridiculous amounts of money ... But this is no Bright Lights Big City. It’s not even as deep as 2013’s coming-of-age breakthrough, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. While it may be coincidence that those books dealt with young people finding themselves in New York’s literary society, what they shared was a more complex worldview — a dawning awareness that the world was larger than the characters’ own social milieu ... Like her heroines, the author came of age in digital media, and the book reads that way: fast, witty, and fun. But, sadly, after turning the last page the story lacks the kind of thoughtful resonance that takes hold and lingers.
Startup may have read as satire a decade ago but feels like historical record today. Shafrir’s precise eye for detail takes stock of the tech industry’s favorite answers for tough questions ... Startup is about more than business. It navigates the rocky foundation of relationships, journalism’s importance, sexual harassment, and digital careerism. It’s about how all those things blend together, particularly as women come into power and the world around them reacts ... The plotlines move with momentum, perhaps because backstory is scarce. While we get to know the main characters by observing their daily lives, we rarely get a glimpse of how they got there. The novel is most relatable when it touches on the inner turmoil of its characters.
...a feminist satire that’s as addictive as it is biting ... Exacting, though not without empathy—Shafrir renders even the most infuriating of her characters with unexpected humanity—the novel is a page-turning pleasure that packs a punch. To call it expertly observed is an understatement.
...a biting and astute debut ... I reminded myself that this was not a sexual harassment quiz but a satirical novel, so I definitely didn’t have an obligation to pick the right answer, or side with any of the characters. This revelation freed me to savor many delights of Startup.
Shafrir’s satirical observations, about such topics as the nonstop snacking in startup offices, are often astute; unfortunately, they’re also often made multiple times. Also, in a novel that seems in part intended to highlight sexism in the tech industry, the object of the sexual harassment incident remains largely voiceless. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable send-up that, unlike so many of the characters it portrays, doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Doree Shafrir smartly – but lovingly – skewers tech culture, its grandiose leaders and the naivety of thinking that good intentions, lots of money and a mindset of fun will prevent bad behaviors in the workplace … Shafrir writes cuttingly about this industry, where stories are repackaged, retitled and disseminated widely and quickly across social media, while few actual news stories get traction … The storytelling in Startup generates its own momentum, with the characters wrestling with thorny questions of loyalty, justice, consequences and relationships in ways that reject easy answers.
Though far from a polemic, Startup carefully constructs a portrait of tech industry sexism. On occasion, Shafrir turns toward issues of ageism and racism, but they’re given proportionally less space … Shafrir’s writing is propulsive, and the book is well-paced. The constantly rotating perspectives effectively build tension, and each one is compelling, empathetic and frustrating in different ways. At times a point-of-view switch requires a chronological move backwards, and that can be a little disorienting.
Startup could be called Pride and Prejudice and Tech Bros; Shafrir turns a sharp eye on the culture of techy startups and their unspoken moral codes … Shafrir underscores the cultural differences between generations, highlighting how a single decade means the difference between Dan and Sabrina’s experience on the cusp of technology, and that of those younger, who have grown up with the certainty of the Internet … This isn’t bold, defiant satire, but the kind that highlights the thousand natural shocks of human interaction.