October 7th, 2013
The Partner Track by Helen Wan
I received an *ARC in exchange for an honest review. Can I first say that contemporary fiction just isn't my thing. It's not a go to for me, as I prefer my worlds completely fictional. So perhaps I am not the greatest judge of this genre. But one thing I will say is it captured me from start to finish. It is by far one of the best reads I've had this year, and while it's generally a genre I don't avoid, I don't normally pick books in this genre up.
The Partner Track followed the exploits of Ingrid Yung. Ingrid is a lawyer at one of the most prestigious law firms in the country, and is on "The Partner Track", a term used to describe someone who is grooming themselves to become a partner at a law firm. One of the standouts about this book is that it forces readers to see white male cisgendered privilege at it's ugliest. Unfortunately, being a woman and a minority, such as Ingrid was, the higher you get to the top of your field, the less likely people look like you.
The pacing in this book was excellent. There was never a moment where I was lost, or bored with the events in the story. It is a short read, so it takes advantage of this by getting straight to the point without having a ton of unnecessary chapters. The reliability and consistency was good as well, as Ingrid and the people whom surrounded her were consist with the story being told.
I will say that to me there was a bit of world-building. Im not a lawyer/law student and most of my experience with that stuff is only what I see on television. So the way the story painted a clear picture of corporate law(aka "White and Male)without me having a clue what all the terms and politics involved, I was sure I'd get lost, but I didn't. The predictability in the book? While I'll say some things didn't surprise me, they weren't exactly predictable. I think most "assume" we live in a post-racial country, so racism and sexism still tends to shock us. Again, I'll say I wasn't surprised, but I didn't find it predictable at any point.
The character development was on point. I love, love, LOVED Ingrid Yung. I found her to be one of the most relatable characters I've read this year. She was a "no shit taking" type of woman. While she did pick and choose her battles, when it came to race, she never let someone get away with something that made her angry. She was also very human. I don't mind when women are not cry-ers. Im not much of one myself. But women cry when they're hurt. And she wasn't strong all the time, and didn't need to be 24/7.
The back story was told in an organized fashion, so not to get lost. I used to enjoy back story a lot. But after I began writing, I realized how difficult it can be for others to interpret back story they way a writer might. So I typically am not a fan, but the book did well in showing how great of a support system Ingrid had with her parents. They believed in her so much, and were there for her even when she thought she'd lose their pride in her.
The conflict involved a lot of politics. Wow does a law firm involve a lot of politics. Im not saying that there wont be drama for everyone on their passion in advancing their careers, but being a woman of color in an all white, all boys club definitely makes it a much harder struggle. There are things Ingrid just couldn't do without losing face just because she was female. And even with all her struggles, she later learned, even her white male counterparts held a lot of resentment toward her, assuming she didn't get far in her job through merit, but because of policies put in place to make workplaces more diverse. The book is unique if you compare it to anything mainstream. Many may disagree or are free to agree, but it's very seldom when an Asian woman get to be her own HEROINE. By the end of the book, there is no man to save her, to be her savior, or to make sure she's complete. She makes all her dreams come true ON HER OWN. It's probably why I loved her character so much. She was truly her own superhero.
Grammar I will say that the language can be confusing. The book is gentle on the law terms and dialogue, but it doesn't take long to get back on the horse. The POV is very clear, as it's told from first person, and there are no issues with that. There's a good balance between beats and dialogue so also no issue. The editing is the industry standard. I did notice a few typos, but due to it being an *ARC, I assumed it wasn't the final cut. One issue is that there are times where the book tells vs shows. Many times there were terms like "his what the heck"look. Im assuming my "What the heck" look isn't the same as another person's and I would've rather the book just describe the expression and not be lazy with it.
Diversity was on point. I wont say there was a ton of it, but considering the profession, and the explicit example of working in a "White Boys Club", I think it's appropriate. There were several female characters and well as a good colleague of Ingrid's who was Black and openly gay. I think if in any other world I would have more to say about this, but it's law and it's corporate. I hate to say this but anything more would have seemed forced. The research involved? After goodreads policy change, I am trying hard not to mention authors in reviews, but Im pretty sure the author's experience in law and as a woman of color were her research. So it's more like life experience. The efforts to empower? I never once felt as if Ingrid was weak. Why is this stereotype that Asian women are submissive even relevant anymore? This book reflects the Americans of Asian descent that I know. Strong, successful(in anything, not just career)passionate. I may step on toes saying this, but I believe that of women of Asian descent whom are submissive are such a great minority they may not even exist anymore.
Miscellaneous-wise? The title suits. I will complain about the cover however. Seems a bit whitewashed. Why is it so clear apparent to see the white man's face, but the woman's face is cut off? She's the main character! Ingrid or a representation of her should have been apparent. Also, she also could have been white from the cover, which is why an Asian woman's face should be clear to see. Character names. I will say that while they suit the environment, a whole bunch of white last names just downright confuse me. Im more likely to remember an ethnic last name, so whenever I saw one, outside of characters that were pretty major, it was much easier to remember them than the assortment of european last names.
There were clear descriptions of people and places. It's the book describes the white people on greater detail than anything else, which I suppose is due to environment, as there aren't many POC to describe. The biggest complaint I had was with the "n" word. The book avoided writing it, and Ingrid referred to it as the word that rhymed with bigger. I assume it has to do with being uncomfortable with using and writing it. But guess what? The word should make people feel uncomfortable. It's an ugly word, and to be honest, the minute others stop finding it uncomfortable, racism will have somehow fallen in some deep abyss. Sound crazy? Yeah, which is why it should be there, so people can't ignore the ugliness of it.
Overall this was a great read for me. I would definitely recommend it to people looking for a different perspective. We don't exactly live in a world with only white men, so why should only their experiences still the only ones told in these types of environments?
It could be just because I just saw "Its a Good Day To Be Black and Sexy" but I pictured actress Emily Liu as my Ingrid.
Her character in IAGDTBBAS was in an interracial relationship and had a hard time telling her visiting family and Ingrid dated interracially most of the time.