Reviews for Trick Mirror

by Jia Tolentino

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

New Yorker contributor Tolentino debuts with a sharp, well-founded crackdown on the lies of self and culture in these nine original, incisive reflections on a hypercapitalist, internet-driven age that "positions personal identity as the center of the universe." While some essays peel back personal self-delusions-such as by recalling, in "Always Be Optimizing," how taking barre classes for fitness gave her the "satisfying but gross sense of having successfully conformed to a prototype" -others comment on broader cultural movements with frightening accuracy, for instance noting in "Pure Heroines" that "bravery and bitterness get so concentrated in literature, for women, because there's not enough space for [women] in the real world," or that the election of Donald Trump represents the "incontrovertible, humiliating vindication of scamming as the quintessential American ethos." The collection's chief strength is Tolentino's voice: sly, dry, and admittedly complicit in an era where "the to be destroyed or to morally compromise ourselves in order to be functional." While the insights aren't revelatory, the book's candid self-awareness and well-formulated prose, and Tolentino's ability to voice the bitterest truths-"Everything, not least the physical world itself, is overheating"-will gain Tolentino new fans and cement her reputation as an observer well worth listening to. (Aug.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A popular young writer tackles a host of cultural movements in her debut collection of essays.In these nine stunning pieces, New Yorker staff writer Tolentino seamlessly melds together journalistic social criticism and revealing personal essays. To varying degrees of intimate context, she places herself within each narrative, reporting on broad social currents while revealing very specific encounters. Among the many topics the author explores: the expansive influence of the internet and social media; the increasing social pressure to optimize our interests and aspirations at all times (especially for women); the alarming proliferation and increased tolerance of scamming; societal, somewhat idealized traditions such as marriage and, more specifically, weddings. Tolentino recounts her experience with reality TV and reflects on her teenage identity when she appeared as a contestant in Girls v. Boys: Puerto Rico. "Reality TV had not yet created a whole new type of person," she writes, "the camera-animated assemblage of silicone and pharmaceuticals; we hadn't yet seen the way organic personalities could decay on unscripted television, their half-lives measured through sponsored laxative-tea Instagrams and paid appearances at third-tier regional clubs." She also recalls favorite literary books from her past, assessing the heroines' varying plights in guiding her current feminist leanings. While offering razor-sharp commentary on the underbelly of our culture, she can also appreciate its attraction. Furthermore, she acknowledges her particular conundrum, having established her niche as a writer by staying in tune with cultural trends: "I don't know what to do with the factthat my career is possible in large part because of the way the internet collapses identity, opinion, and actionand that I, as a writer whose work is mostly critical and often written in first person, have some inherent stake in justifying the dubious practice of spending all day trying to figure out what you think." Tolentino offers a millennial perspective that is deeply grounded, intellectually transcending her relative youth. She brings fresh perspective to current movements in a manner similar to that of Joan Didion in the 1960s and '70s.Exhilarating, groundbreaking essays that should establish Tolentino as a key voice of her generation. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal
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In her debut, New Yorker writer Tolentino turns a critical eye on herself and, in doing so, highlights the troubling images reflected in current American culture. These essays examine reality TV, physical optimization, rape culture, and more, and pieces about constructing identity on the Internet—from Geocities to Twitter trolling to the scam of the Fyre Festival—are especially timely and affecting. Tolentino's take on these topics is dark—the word nightmare is often used to describe the depressing effects of social media—and the author finds that an overriding theme is the desire to be seen, even if the image isn't always positive. Overall, she highlights how people must ignore the rot of the world in order to function day to day, which might be the most sinister thing of all. The book is thoroughly researched, and nearly every page contains a revelation about contemporary culture. Tolentino's writing is just personal enough to put a human aspect to her points, so that readers feel them intimately, and she admits her own unseemly qualities with the same attention by which she examines the rest of the world. The final essay on marriage lags behind what is otherwise a cutting, brilliant collection. VERDICT An incisive collection that cements Tolentino as one of her generation's greatest cultural critics.—Katy Hershberger, School Library Journal

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Tolentino brings a preternaturally aware millennial sensibility and exceptional literary skills to her keenly inquisitive and complexly involving essays. A New Yorker writer with a consequential online following, Tolentino is adept at transmuting autobiography into penetrating and unpredictable critiques of the self and the zeitgeist. In nine substantial and kinetic investigations built on deep reading, intrepid reckoning, and daring disclosures, Tolentino considers an array of slippery yet key questions. She assesses the impact of the internet on our sense of personal and communal identity and responsibility. She recounts her childhood as a rare Asian American in a large Texas evangelical church community, her role in a teen reality-TV show, and her stints at the University of Virginia and in the Peace Corps, delving into race, gender, sexual assault, and feminism in its current market-friendly and mainstream form. Tolentino investigates literary heroines, religion, self-optimization, weddings, ecstasy chemical and mystical, and the perversities of the Trump administration. In the zone of Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Elif Batuman, and Leslie Jamison, Tolentino adeptly pursues a granular understanding of undermining paradoxes with wit, verve, and righteousness.--Donna Seaman Copyright 2010 Booklist