Michelle Miller’s The Underwriting is one of those perfect, guilty pleasure quick reads. Following a group of young Wall Street-esque bankers (who are only slightly corrupt), their only major crimes thus far are insider trading and treating women poorly. Mixing Wall Street with Silicon Valley, Miller’s novel deals with a fictional dating app, Hook, and the drama surrounding it’s IPO.
The characters aren’t likeable, and that’s by design, but Miller provides an insight into what motivates them and how it affects their interactions with each other. They will remind you of someone you’ve met, heard of, or known personally. Todd: the hot but self-absorbed banker who values people based on their usefulness in his climb to the top. Or Tara: the perfectionist who works out and diets obsessively to maintain the perfect body, while taking prescription medications to keep all the balls in the air. Mainly, though, these people are struggling with the same situation many young professionals are finding themselves in: doing what they’ve been told will make them successful versus doing what they know will make them happy.
If nothing else, the way the characters navigate the Hook app makes for an interesting diversion. Miller’s commentary on what they are thinking when they swipe left or right on the app is pretty spot on. For example, one girl’s analysis of her potential match’s profile: “Tarik flashed a smile that was warm and inviting. She opened his profile. Harvard Business School, Morehouse undergrad. She hesitated. She’d seen Save the Last Dance. Even if he was perfect, she couldn’t be that white girl who took a good black man. Swipe left.”
While it would be easy to pick one character and follow them down the rabbit hole that is the corporate and dating worlds, Miller keeps the reader engaged by switching narrators throughout the novel. There are several sides to every story and the reader gets to see them all. In the end, though, Miller’s aim is to make the reader see parts of themselves in each of these characters, forcing the reader to examine a tough question—how much is one willing to sacrifice to be able to say they’ve made it to the top of their game?