The books you'll want to read.
On its face, Michelle Miller’s THE UNDERWRITING is the story of a young investment banking team and its efforts to launch a successful IPO for the nation’s hottest new location-based dating app. This book is about far more than finance and technology, though, and that description neither does the plot justice nor sufficiently prepares the reader for what’s in store.
As bleak and depressing as it is thrilling, THE UNDERWRITING is a tale of sex, power, ambition, greed, arrogance, self-doubt, morality, misogyny, and murder. It’s a story of ruin and redemption that could easily be characterized as dystopic but for the fact that it takes place in the real world (well, insofar as the arenas of technology and banking qualify). It shines a spotlight on the pervasiveness of misogyny in our culture. It takes a dim view of social media and venture capitalism. It rings alarm bells about data collection, privacy policies, and cyber security. It offers a thought-provoking defense of—and some insightful advice for—Millennials. It’s essentially GAME OF THRONES meets SILICON VALLEY meets GONE GIRL, with a touch of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA thrown in for good measure, and while I wouldn’t say I had fun reading it, I definitely couldn’t put it down.
Miller’s prose is both intelligent and evocative. (“She headed down the street, her four-inch stilettos and tangled hair a scarlet letter on the Wednesday morning sidewalk.”) None of her point-of-view characters is likable (in fact, most are downright despicable), but there’s not a cardboard cutout in the bunch. And while I feel she takes too long to connect her B story to the main plot, the pacing never suffers for it.
My only real criticism is of the book’s ending. Miller’s big reveal feels unearned, and she leaves so many plot threads dangling that one can’t help but feel cheated. The final scene is shocking, to be sure, and will leave fans begging for a sequel, but I believe books—even those that are part of a series—should be able to stand on their own, and in that regard, THE UNDERWRITING falls short.