Author: Iman Hariri-Kia
Pub. Date: Jul. 26, 2022 (read Apr. 2022)
Thanks to Harper Collins and Netgalley for gifting me with an early e-copy of this book. I attended HCC Frenzy’s first adult fiction preview on upcoming new releases for summer 2022 and was stoked to receive an arc of A Hundred Other Girls, which was really hyped up.
It’s impossible to talk about A Hundred Other Girls without comparing it to The Devil Wears Prada. Granted, it’s been MANY years since I read The Devil Wears Prada, but the similarities are immediately obvious. A Hundred Other Girls is definitely a much more contemporary version of this classic and I loved that it features a Persian-American protagonist and displays all kinds of minority identities and relationships throughout the story.
Noora is an aspiring writer not long out of college who lives in New York and runs her own moderately successful lifestyle and culture blog. She wants to be a journalist and aspires to one day write meaningful think pieces for magazines, of which Vinyl is at the top of her list. She’s a bit down and out on luck and is currently sleeping on her sister’s couch to help make ends meet when she interviews for an executive assistant position with none other than the Editor-in-Chief of Vinyl, Loretta James.
As you can probably guess from the comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada, Noora lands the job and Loretta turns out to be a certifiable nightmare. Vinyl is currently in the midst of an internal war between the digital and print versions of the magazine and Noora’s job quickly becomes her entire life as she gets constantly dragged by Loretta, motivating her to get naively involved in the underground war taking place at Vinyl.
First off, I should state up front that I didn’t like The Devil Wears Prada, so I’m not sure why I was so motivated to read this one. I think it was mostly because of Noora and I wanted to experience New York through the eyes of a Persian-American protagonist. I wanted to love A Hundred Other Girls, but I have to admit that I didn’t. I feel like the author had all the right elements, but overall I thought the plot was just a bit basic. I wanted this to challenge my thinking and provide new perspectives, but I thought it was a bit oversimplified and not as revolutionary as I’d hoped.
Loretta was really the worst and I felt like the author kept trying to make us somehow empathize with her despite her terrible actions. I don’t care how much Loretta might have championed certain causes or impacted the print industry – she was an asshole and it’s never okay to rationalize treating people like shit. I understood why Noora kept working there (money and exposure), but I lamented for her mental health because being treated this way could not be worth it.
I will say that the author is a pretty good story teller. Despite being frustrated with the content, I did not struggle to read this book and was engaged throughout the entire story. The writing flows well and Noora is still a very relatable character. I just wanted more from it. I didn’t buy that Noora would get such a good reception after writing one think piece (that’s really just not how the world works) and I would have loved to be more engaged in the piece that she wrote.
I picked this book up because I wanted to understand the prejudice and micro-aggressions Noora had been working against her entire life. I would have loved for the writing of her think piece to be more central to the novel. To understand her own lived experiences and get insight into how she interviewed and developed the piece into something so meaningful. As a reader, it was hard for me to be impressed by her work without getting the opportunity to experience it. I understand the point the author was trying to make, but I feel like she only just scratched the surface of the issue and that body hair should have been a lot more central to the story if that’s the first piece that Noora decides to write.
I did like the ending of the book, I felt like it was a bit unconventional, but I was glad to see Noora stand up for herself. Like I said, I think all the elements were there, I just wanted the author to develop stronger themes. It was a compelling story, but I finished the book questioning what my key takeaways are supposed to be. But as always with a book like this, I want to acknowledge that this perspective may mean the world to someone else and that there is always value in telling diverse stories. I didn’t love it, but it’s a fresh take on a modern classic and I still liked it better than The Devil Wears Prada, so don’t be deterred from checking it out!