Commentary on millennials is starting to bore me, if I’m being honest. Snowflake by Louise Nealon wants to be one of these books, exploring whatever the ‘millennial experience’ is supposed to be at this point, but by the end, I just can’t tell what to take from it.
Snowflake is Nealon’s debut, almost guaranteed to become the buzziest new writer out of Ireland’s seemingly endless string of young literati. It focuses on Debbie, a first-year student at Trinity College, balancing her new life among academic elites with her troubled life back home on a dairy farm outside of Dublin. She falls into a strained friendship with posh girl Xanthe, while dealing with her mother back home struggling with severe bipolar disorder. I liked a lot of the threads of this book–exploring class divides in modern Ireland, the stigma of mental health issues, and the struggle of fitting in as a young adult–but at the end, it felt more like a collection of scenes than a cohesive narrative.
The language here is strong, and I’m sure the Irish setting and young characters will get this swiftly compared to Normal People. That feels a bit lazy–the central relationships here are familial, not romantic–but the themes of class divides definitely reminded me of the same plots in that novel. There is a lot of wry Irish humour here, but a lot of beats that feel awfully dated, like cozy pubs and small towns where everyone knows Debbie’s entire life story. The story comes to a screeching halt at various times, but seems to rush through important plot points at others. In the end, Snowflake is an interesting book, but one that sadly might feed into the millennial stereotype that we take ourselves way too seriously.
Thanks to NetGalley and Bonnier Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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