Published June 1st 2009 by Random House UK
Author: Sarah Herman
Genre: Non-fiction, humour, comic
Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
“It was performance review time.”
Beginning with its protagonist facing the numbing realization that her job is no longer challenging, this story follows her ups and downs from performance review to unwanted promotion, against a backdrop of petty office politics. She experiences a series of quite unexpected characters and events. There is the omnipresent know-it-all cat fairy, as well as the mysterious pineapple preening itself between the monitors and hiding a tale of email woe. People leave, people join, the company moves location, she is not-quite promoted. At each event she is torn between her fear of change and her understanding that there is nothing but change. Ultimately a strange and sobering sequence of events propels her to consider the impossible. At times charming, at times brutal, the minimal black and white line drawings of this graphic novel deftly uncover hidden emotions. The turn of an eyelash, the angle of a mouth are all enough to create an entire universe of feeling.
This is another book that I picked up at my local library in the comics/graphic novels section. I’m slowly starting to read more of this genre and find out what it has to offer. So I found this one all about the author’s relationship towards her office job.
I’ve never had an office job. I’ve done work experience in offices, but nothing like the kind of job featured here. However, it’s more the realisations and relationships than the actual job that matter more here.
The book is split up into various job-related sections such as: ‘the performance review’, ‘tools of the trade’, ‘unexpected changes’ etc. The illustrations are simple but funny. The author gets to the real humour behind stuff like having a performance review while drinking Starbucks, and her tools being things like PowerPoint.
One of the main ‘themes’ that occurs early on is Sarah trying to identify areas where she is brilliant and inspiring through her job, which is basically working with clients to identify how their website can be improved, or what is working well. That’s it in it’s most basic form. There’s a need to be inspiring in the work she does, and this runs through the book even as different situations arise.
“My heart wasn’t really in it but I still desperately wanted it to be.”
Some aspects of the book were brilliant, and I found myself being amused, but other times I switched off because I felt like I’d have to have an interest in the subject of ‘office job’ to connect with it a bit more. This just meant that when I was paying most attention, it was to get an insight into what the office world is like. For a reader like me, thought were going round my head about whether I would be able to do a job like that, with an office environment.
There’s a turning point in the book when we get to the ‘unexpected changes’ section. I won’t say what it is, but it made me stop. It made me think ‘whoa’. If this book is capable of a plot twist, that was it. But what it changed for me as a reader is that I now felt closer to the characters in this office. Like I had become a fly on the wall through Sarah, into the things that were happening. People are named by letters, and are drawn with their unique features, so it’s easy to identify the main characters. And the book wouldn’t be the same without the cat fairy.
Towards the end, things get a bit more complex in terms of the structure of the office. People leaving, new arrivals, promotions, projects. I started to feel a certain pressure just reading it, and this translates into the pressure that employees must feel during difficult times in their job.
“It felt like a huge abyss of time in which any number of things could go wrong…”
The book follows the protagonist, Sarah, as she decides whether what she’s doing is challenging enough, inspiring enough, satisfying enough, and all those things that you want to be able to do and feel when you have a job.
It also explores that important subject of finding yourself in a position with more responsibility than you feel qualified to handle. Suddenly being in the position where everybody is looking to you for the answer, and you don’t know what the answer is. It may be that you got there from being good at what you do, but suddenly things are different and now you don’t know what to do. I was really glad to see that explored here.
And the ending says it all.
If you’ve ever had an office job, you’ll find this book funny. If you like simple drawings that are brilliant at conveying deep and hilarious feelings, then you’ll also enjoy this book.
Link to the book on Goodreads: I Like My Job