Monday, November 30, 2009

Review & GIVEAWAY: Totally killer, dude

If you've graduated from college in the past couple of years and are living in New York City, there's a very good chance that life sucks for you right now. Why? The economy. Kinda seems like a cliché reason, but it's true. Huge numbers of recent grads are unemployed or holding a part-time job that pays minimum wage and has nothing to do with that degree they just spent thousands of dollars on. But guess what? You're not the first group this has happened to! Back in 1991, things were just as bad—back when a Bush was in office, the US was involved in another war in the Middle East, and NYC was just a little seedier.

This is the historical setting for Greg Olear's debut novel, Totally Killer. The story focuses on Taylor, a 23-year-old single and jobless graduate from Missouri. We hear the story, however, from Taylor's roommate Todd, who tells us in the very beginning that Taylor is dead and we're going to learn why. Taylor comes to the Big Apple with glitter in her eyes, and she's anxious to live the New York City dream. After months of searching for a job and nothing to show for it, Taylor is understandably frustrated. When an invitation for a mysterious employment agency called Quid Pro shows up in her mailbox, Taylor figures it can't hurt to give them a call. Quid Pro Quo proves to be quite different from any other employment agency Taylor has visited—a nice building, expensive decor. She easily lands a perfect job and, even better, a perfect boyfriend, but [as the publisher blurb states, and I have to steal its dramatic teaser] "perfection has its price."

Totally Killer is essentially a piece of historical fiction, just using a history that isn't too remote. The author does a fabulous job of setting the scene as New York in 1991. I didn't live here then [I was six years old], and neither did Olear, but I certainly got a feel of the setting from his descriptions—sentences that reiterate how there was no email or internet or cell phones, and how employment agencies and classifieds were the main ways to find a job. It reminds you that not only has technology changed, it has certainly hugely changed the way we function as a society.

This is book is one part thriller (who killed Taylor??), one part satire built around the following idea: recent grads can't find a job because baby-boomers are still in the workforce. So what's the easiest way to fix that? Kill them off, of course. Olear creates a story in which the outlandish becomes almost justifiable, and it's peppered with lots of themes and pop culture references that make this book almost as relatable today, though it's set almost two decades ago.

I enjoyed the perspective from which the story was told. While I got to know the characters, I never felt I had the time to decide if I liked them or not. It's one of those stories that just carried me along as one event flowed into another. Olear did an excellent job of simultaneously working through the setting and characters and plot, and I had a hard time putting this one down.

Greg has generously given me ONE copy of his debut novel to share with one of our readers. This contest is open internationally. For one entry each:

  1. Comment on this post with your email address.
  2. Tweet about this giveaway (Totally Killer giveaway from @booknerds!

Deadline is Monday, December 14th at 11:59PM EST. The winner will be announced the following day. Good luck!

Tune in tomorrow for a guest post by author Greg Olear.

Totally Killer was released in October by Harper Paperbacks.
Review copy provided by the author.


Sasha said...

Put my name in the hat! :)[I thought that desk chair was a frog set up for dissection, gah.]


And I tweeted about it:

Happy Monday. :)

Salvatore said...

This one sounds like a lot of fun. I'm always amused when the first person narrator is not the core of the story. Sounds like it's definitely worth a read.

Anonymous said...

Yep. This definately sounds like something I would read!

I twittered @ilanajacqueline

Enter me please!


Sue said...

I'd love a chance to win! Thanks for the giveaway.

s.mickelson at gmail dot com

Jenny said...

Sounds interesting!

jennala @ cfl . rr . com

Colin Matthew ( said...

That book sounds pretty good. I would be interested in checking it out.

colinmatthew at

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Wow, what a fantastic review, Kari! I think I'm too old (I mean, ahem, not the right demographic) for the book, but I'll tweet about it and maybe send some new readers your way.

Amanda said...

I love your review! I'm totally there. Just got my Master's and living on Manhattan and working as...a receptionist. Woohoo!

Well. Things can only go up, right?

I love the mystery aspect and the setting. Thanks for the giveaway!

nycbookgirl at gmail dot com and I'm tweeting.

Love your blog!!

homebetweenpages said...

Great giveaway! I'd love to win this one. rmanwill at gmail dot com

Tweeted too!

Kristen said...

I read Totally Killer about a month ago and totally agree with this killer review. I still can't stop thinking about how cool the book is. I highly suggest reading it! I already bought a couple of copies for friends and family. By the way, the person who commented about being "too old" to read it should not worry. My 93 year old grandma loved it too! Seriously.

christine(booktumbling) said...

Count me in please!


I also tweeted:

Joanna M said...

Sounds great - please enter me!

I also retweeted but I don't know how to provide the url. You can find me @jmb0923.


gaby317 said...

Great review! Please count me in.

I just found your blog recently through Hey, Lady! and am very glad I did.

gaby317nyc at gmail dot com