“Super Sad… Thing is a dystopian novel about the near future, and the scary thing is it’s already happening.” – Edmund White
This quote, from the SSTLS trailer, pretty much sums up what I thought the entire time I was reading this book. Set in the near future (some reviews estimated about 20 years from now, though I think it could be sooner than that), everyone is obsessed with their electronic devices, rankings, credit score, clothing (or lack thereof, as is the style for young people), and health. People have given up interacting with each other (and reading) in favor of picking up a constant stream of data that everyone broadcasts. Meanwhile, America, run by the Bipartisans, is going to heck and our foreign creditors are coming to foreclose on their investment. Also, we’re fighting an unwinnable war in Venezuela and the LNWIs (low net worth individuals, one of many acronyms) and returning National Guard members are losing their homes and setting up camp in parks. So it’s a great time to be an American. JBF.
So the scariest thing is, just about everything that happens is totally plausible and it would not surprise me if at least parts of this really came to pass.
In the midst of all this, middle-aged Lenny meets young, tiny, perfect Eunice, who ends up moving in with him in his NYC apartment so she can be close (but not too close) to her family in New Jersey. The story is told in alternating chapters by Lenny’s diary and Eunice’s GlobalTeens (like Facebook) messages with her family and friends. The entire novel only spans a few months, during which time Lenny and Eunice meet, Eunice slowly falls in love with Lenny (who was already completely infatuated with her), and they grow apart, their own break-up mimicking and coinciding with The Rupture, the event that marks the end of the USA as we know it.
I loved this book. It was very depressing, though – both for the love story (which really is super sad) and for the grim yet realistic vision of the future. Sometimes I wanted to just shake the characters though! I mean, Lenny, look at the world around you! I can tell what’s going on just by reading between the lines in your diary, why are you so blind? And Eunice, why are you so fickle and mean? I thought you were finally coming around to poor Lenny, but in the end you broke his heart and then you broke the heart of the next guy, and probably the next guy too.
There are not many books I feel I need to own – I figure, you’ve already read it, why do you need to keep it hanging around? Also, in the future, “bound, printed, nonstreaming media artifacts” are seen as smelly and gross. But I could see myself owning a copy of this book, so I think that is a pretty high compliment coming from me. I just finished it and I actually kind of want to read it again!