Brenda is a professional temp with a terrible attitude. She works random assignments in Los Angeles. While she remains fairly stoic in each work environment, her diary entries reflect her true feelings: about her zany employers, and about her sort-of boyfriend, Jared, and her sort-of roommate, Maya. As Brenda navigates the post-college world of uncertainty, readers are privy to her insights about what it is to be smarter than the work you’re being paid for–and how to survive it.
I first discovered Margo Candela’s Brenda on Twitter, where she would post some of her character’s observations. I had the chance to get the book for free recently on Amazon.com, and I decided to take a chance on what I thought was an interesting premise. Unfortunately, the idea behind The Brenda Diaries is much stronger than the execution.
Candela is an adequate writer, and she’s at her strongest when she lets Margo go about her daily observations. Brenda’s voice is authentic to that of a disaffected young twenty-something. Her voice is consistent throughout the relatively short novel (almost more of a novella, if we want to split hairs). She is well-developed, but the rest of the characters who populate her world are not, which is disappointing.
Part of this is due to the structure of the book, which takes place entirely in Brenda’s diary (except for the odd choice to add a backlog of tweets at the end). Because we view these characters through Brenda’s eyes, we are only privy to what she writes about. She doesn’t like to get close to people, so the reader doesn’t get to, either. It’s a shame, because there was potential to flesh out the characters, especially in the case of her boyfriend and roommate.
Despite being frequently funny and even quite astute in her observations about life as a temp and a fairly attractive female, Brenda’s story never quite gets off the ground. This is a novel short on plot in the worst way: readers will keep waiting for the rising action or any sort of real conflict, and they will be disappointed. There just isn’t much of one to speak of. The entire thing feels underdeveloped, which is a shame, because Brenda has a great deal of potential as an unlikely heroine.
It might work for readers looking for light, quick reads. The Brenda Diaries is available as an ebook and can be purchased at your preferred ebook vendor.
The Brenda Diaries by Margo Candela. SugarMissile: 2011. Purchased copy.