I am fairly certain that my mom and sister got me Monkey Business from the bargain book bin, and by bargain I mean, like, $2 or less. I adored it, though; it was the perfect between-books book, and it sort of made me wonder if I really should have gone to grad school after all.
Monkey Business is told from the perspective of four twenty-somethings — Kimmy, Jamie, Russ and Layla — living it up at a fictitious Connecticut business school. Kimmy is slightly slutty and doesn’t think she’s smart enough to be at B-School; Jamie is the unattractive, short, balding but very sweet and funny Jewish guy she accidentally hooked up with on the first night of orientation; Russ is Jamie’s Canadian pothead friend who’s in a long-distance relationship whom Kimmy desperately desires; and Layla is a life force from New York who raises her hand five times per class and is on the hunt for her perfect mate. (Now that I describe it this way, Monkey Business should definitely be made into a crappy two-season sitcom or low-budget romcom with, like, Jason Biggs.)
So what I didn’t like about the story, and it had nothing to do with the way Mlynowski wrote it, was how Kimmy made it her life’s pursuit to get Russ to cheat on his girlfriend with her. If I were currently single I probably would have been rooting for it — who does Russ think he is going to business school in another country while trying to maintain a new relationship? — but now that I’m in a two-and-a-half-year-long, live-in relationship I vehemently disapproved of her shameless attempts to seduce Russ. I was equally disgusted by how easily Russ fell for her tricks and how he not only slept with Kimmy, but basically conducted a full-on relationship with both girls at the same time. Ugh! (I also thought it a bit strange how Mlynowski described the B-School dorm rooms and co-ed bathrooms — I know my school is usually ranked among the best on-campus housing in the country, but these sounded a little too freshman year doubles for my taste.)
What I did like about the story a whole lot was Layla, and not just because she referenced Manhattan in every other thought. She was very well written in that smart-girl-with-a-wild-side kind of way, like a combination of Taylor from The OC and Reese Witherspoon’s character in Election. I almost wish the whole book had been told from her perspective, but Jamie provided a lot of comic relief as the self-deprecating, nice Jewish boy. (It kind of broke my heart, though, when Kimmy complained about how gross and annoying Jamie was while Jamie kept thinking how lucky he was to have been with her and how he desperately wanted to date her.) I also liked that this book was about people like me; I’m always reading books from the perspectives of people who’s lives are absolutely nothing like mine, and although I’ve not recently been to business school I felt very connected to their post-grad thoughts and activities and general way of living.
So I highly recommend this book to anyone about to take a flight or go on a three-hour car or train ride, and I will most likely add all of Mlynowski’s novels to my Goodreads “To Read” list. Next up: Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest, Sisterland!