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These Days Are Ours by Michelle Haimoff

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Publisher: Penguin Books (UK)
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Six months after September 11th, New Yorkers are instructed to get on with their lives despite the terror advisories, streets filled with 9/11 merchandise, and mail that may contain Anthrax. But for Hailey, still jobless after college and living in her family's Fifth Avenue penthouse, getting on with life means getting closer to Michael Brenner, the Princeton graduate and future human rights lawyer who seems to have it all. The city feels as if it's on the brink of apocalypse, and seeking out any sort of future seems pointless. So Hailey and her friends - Katie, already working at Morgan Stanley; Randy, a trust-fund kid who wears sweaters with holes in them; and Jess, confident of her future success regardless of her present inertia - stay out all night, dream up get rich quick schemes and aspire to greatness while questioning how much that greatness really matters. But when Hailey meets Adrian, a transplanted Pennsylvanian and recent Brown graduate who doesn't belong to Hailey's privileged mileu, she begins to realize that her view of the world might not be the only one there is, and soon she is questioning everything she thought she knew.

I liked These Days Are Ours (and not just because it's set in my favourite city in the world but that helped). It is definitely more of a 3.5 than a 3 but I don’t give half ratings. The notes and Q&A with Michelle Haimoff at the end really helped put the whole thing into perspective and rounded it up nicely.

The story hit home on a personal level and many graduates or mid-twentysomethings will probably relate to the main character Hailey. I thought Hailey was very well written. It took a while to warm up to her, which isn’t anything out of the ordinary. After all, how often do we meet people we click with instantaneously?  However, by the end I was really rooting for her. The way she flitted between bored, know-it-all, rich girl and naïve, neurotic, over-achiever played out nicely and was quite endearing and realistic. There’s definitely a touch of Hannah Hovarth mixed with Blair Waldorf to Hailey. Some people have dismissed the book because they can’t relate with Hailey and her privileged life but I think that’s a flimsy excuse. I don’t have the first clue about physics or asperger’s but it didn’t stop me from loving The Rosie Project. There’s a truthful humanity to Hailey and I’m sure most people can think back to their twenties and how confused and excited they were at the time. 

There were some great, fresh lines that made me laugh out loud, particularly to do with the relentless questions from older folk about what you’re doing, who you’re seeing, plans for the future. I also related to the anecdotal tales of the changing job market, such as Hailey being surprised when someone called to tell her she didn’t get the job and the American Express interview logic question, which had me laughing even yesterday. The 9/11 back drop also helped heighten Hailey’s desperation to find a path and stick to it, secure the future, and decide what to do with her ‘one wild and precious life’. 

Hailey meets a mentor type figure who summed up the whole story in a nutshell when she said, ‘“…but people in their twenties are so…desperate…”’. I am in my twenties and it is true. I, like Hailey, can’t wait to get to the stage that older people talk about where you just think ‘I’ve done my best, it’s not so bad’.  Unless the older people are lying and you don’t ever really reach this stage…Hailey and her friend talk about things supposedly getting better because they can’t possibly get any worse. I feel like this is something you can only say in your late teens, early twenties. Eventually, you star gaining perspective and realising the world doesn’t revolve around you. I hope so anyway. It was also interesting how those who had seemingly figured it all out were placed on a pedestal – such as Brenner and his glowing career as a human rights lawyer, even though he hadn’t even started law school yet, and Katie who seemed to be living the dream with her investment banking job by day and party in the USA-ing at night.

This competitive edge stemmed from the immense privilege and sense of entitlement which permeated the novel but not in a gaudy, flashy way. Actually, it was quite honest. Hailey regularly felt the pressure of being the best of the best – how could she ever top what her parents had accomplished? But she also knew that she was where she was because of her parents, unlike Adrian, who served to show how the other half lived. 

Overall, These Days Are Ours isn’t very long but there’s quite a bit packed into it. I liked it and definitely related to it. As with Commencement and Girls In White Dresses, this will not be for everyone but will probably be perfect for a small market. 

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