Book Review

Mona At Sea

Mona at Sea

  • Author: Elizabeth Gonzalez James
  • Genre: Literary Fiction
  • Publication Date: July 8, 2021
  • Publisher: Dreamscape Media

Thank you to libro.fm for providing me with an ALC of this book. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: self-harm, alcohol use, drug use, misogyny, profanity, blood, infidelity

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mona Mireles is a quintessential overachiever: A former spelling-bee champion and valedictorian of her college class, she has a sterling résumé and a wall of plaques and medals in her bedroom that stretches floor to ceiling. She’s also broke, unemployed, back at home with her parents, and completely adrift in life and love.

Seven months out of college, she’s desperately trying to reassemble the pieces of her life after the Wall Street job she had waiting for her post-graduation dissolves in the wake of the Great Recession. When her reaction to losing her job goes viral and she is publicly branded the Sad Millennial, she begins a downward spiral into self-pity, bitterness, and late-night drunken binges on cat videos. She’s the sort who says exactly the right thing at absolutely the wrong moments, seeing the world through a cynic’s eyes.

In suburban Tucson amid the financial and social malaise of the early 2000s, 23-year-old Mona must not only find a job but also quickly learn to navigate the complexities of adult relationships within the black hole of her parents’ shattering marriage. At her mother’s urging, she grudgingly joins a support group for job seekers, and she slowly begins to see that all is not lost – and that perhaps losing the job on Wall Street was a blessing in disguise. She might even learn what it is she finds meaningful in life. The only question is whether or not she’ll be brave enough to go after it.

Have you ever wondered what happens when a classic overachiever and golden child graduates college and fails to hit any major milestones? Enter Mona Mireles. She’s a hot mess, widely known as “sad millennial,” due to an interview that went viral. After a successful college experience majoring in finance, in which she lined up a dream job on Wall Street, the financial market went bust and so did her job, her dreams, and basically her life. Now she’s living in her parents’ house, unable to find a job despite sending out literally hundreds of resumes, drinking heavily, lonely, broke, and completely miserable. 

Mona isn’t a character that’s easy to like right off the bat. She’s got a horrible attitude, and isn’t great to the people around her. I wasn’t expecting her to be a cutter, but there’s some pretty heavy emphasis on her self-harm, so be prepared. And here’s where this story shines — she grows immensely as the story progresses. But it certainly didn’t take me that long to really like Mona, especially once her sense of humor started to really shine. And Aida Reluzco’s narrating voice was perfect for this role — well-pitched, laid back, and with the perfect Spanish pronunciations.

I think part of the allure of the story is that this situation is so relatable. Struggling to find a job, moving back home, and just having your life not turn out the way you thought it would in general are all themes that I could definitely empathize with. I understood how Mona felt, and although it was painful seeing her act out, I could completely get where she came from. Feeling frustrated with a lack of direction and an inability to do anything to really change it can absolutely lead to taking it out on the people closest to you. I think most of us have been in those shoes at some point, even though it isn’t a great feeling.

The story encompasses so much — frustration, feeling adrift in your life, growing up biracial, the sensation of losing direction after so many years of being goal-oriented, family issues, learning to navigate relationships, growing into adulthood, and deciding what you want. It never felt cluttered, and I found myself really wanting to see Mona find her way and succeed. I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more work by Elizabeth Gonzalez James. 

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