The New Me by Halle Butler is a satirical novel about Millie, who is ten days in as the new temp at a design firm agency called Lisa Hopper with real possibility to come from temp to full-time.
Right away everything is all wrong. Reception keeps calling her Maddie instead of her given-name Millie. Karen, the said-receptionist, goes on to shove Millie’s incompetence into her face by showing her how to turn on a computer and even going on to ask her to take notes as she gives her demo.
It is obvious that Millie is not considered permanent employee material within the confines of the Lisa Hopper offices, having this basically outlined to her right from the beginning: “You’re the front lines here, and our phones are an important part of our business, so if you could try to time your bathroom breaks with your lunch break, that would be great. Unless it’s an emergency, of course.”
She is given a lot of ridiculous tasks like shredding documents, something a mindless drone could get done in no time, but Millie keeps putting it off until Karen couldn’t help notice Millie’s slovenly attitude towards the tasks that she gives this lackluster temp.
But is it no wonder that Millie isn’t actually giving her all with her supervisor coming up to show her how to use a paper clip (“little side on top, big side on bottom”) as if there is a right and wrong way to use a paper clip?
Millie’s days begins to become one hideous blur. Every day becomes a repeat of the first. She exists in the same boring cycle of work, coming home alone to the apartment, eating dinner, and then vegging out in front of the TV. As the days continue, Millie’s state starts to deteriorate.
At one point, she wants to change it up and instead of watching TV, she decides she would listen to some music while cooking dinner. It seemed like the healthy option. But she ends up never getting around to it. Just like she never got around to throwing out the growing debris that was accumulating around her as Millie grows more and more despondent over her job status.
Millie is an off the grid worker, oftentimes finding herself feeling ignored and unimpressionable by the milieu of permanent workers.
Eventually, Millie stops taking care of herself, stops grooming, doesn’t shower. Her apartment begins to resemble her mental and physical state, filling up with trash, laundry, and dirty dishes.
Then the prospect of long term employment makes the idea of staying at the same stale and boring job more attractive.
Millie begins to think about what she could do with all the money.
This job-prospect gives a much-needed added spark to her life. She thinks about taking up yoga, exercising more, going to a museum, adopting a cat.
Millie learns that a job is all about commodities and how to dress well, make new friends, and basically fit in.
Millie finds herself stuck in this vicious cycle.
The New Me is a dead-on book about the general work-force how sometimes it can be both brutal and unforgiving.
Butler’s novel is a very realistic account of a thirty-year-old woman who has entered a rut in her life and just can’t seem to get out of it. She is a temp worker who faces the prospect of possible permanent employment but when she doesn’t make the cut, her life seems to spiral out of control.
Recalling instances of The Office, The New Me is a brilliant dive into the worker’s mindset with a carefully contrived office setting that will make you cringe.
A book that balances workplace attitudes with the millennial burnout culture, what we get is a book saturated with cynicism and satire.