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Book Review: Girl boss, Gaslight, & Gatekeep with “My Year of Rest and Relaxation”

The quintessential girl boss era has made the comeback of the century. The 2010s were practically defined by the '#girlboss' and 'slay queen' Instagram captions; the way of life has been revived thanks to the comedic geniuses of TikTok.

Another round of thanks to BookTok for using the girl boss revival to highlight what could be considered the holy text of girl bosses: Ottessa Moshfegh's 2018 novel "My Year of Rest and Relaxation."

An unnamed narrator decides to put herself into medically-induced hibernation rather than deal with the consequences of her actions and her parents' deaths–all of which she is strangely emotionally detached from. As a blonde, beautiful Columbia graduate with an inheritance, you would think our narrator would be content with her privileged lifestyle. Our narrator's apathy and boredom are comical as she detaches from reality to hibernate and, what she believes, to reemerge as a changed woman after her year-long experiment.

Armed with a long list of prescription drugs–including the fictional Infermiterol, which sends the narrator into three-day blackouts–the narrator slips into an almost enviable hibernation from the world. Set in pre-9/11 New York City, it feels like Moshfegh is telling a sick joke as she dissects the city's delusional optimism and carefree attitudes.

Her so-called psychologist Dr. Tuttle handing out prescriptions like Halloween candy and advised the narrator to "avoid cellphones and microwaves" as medical treatment. The narrator's 'best friend' Reva perfectly embodies the height of the NYC girl boss's state of mind: a slimming-down obsession and self-absorbed rants that sound almost too real. As our narrator prepares for her hibernation, she enlists the help of eccentric performance artist Ping Xi so she can spend only forty hours awake over four months.

Moshfegh is well-known for writing self-loathing characters, but "My Year of Rest and Relaxation" takes the cake. Right off the bat, hating the narrator comes as naturally as her own repulsion to the normalcy of herself and life. The narrator's inner thoughts can only be described as a gold mine for the darkly humorous thoughts we're too scared to say allowed, even if they're borderline horrific.

Although not fully explored, Moshfegh touches on Western medicine's over-medicating trend and the hidden loopholes in the healthcare system. In addition, every time the narrator goes on a tirade of her thoughts and past, the irony of a wealthy White girl hibernating for a year shows the absurdity of her (and White peoples) privilege compared to literally everyone else on planet Earth.

Reading "My Year of Rest and Relaxation" feels like indulging in a guilty pleasure for far too long, but you can't get enough. Addictive, darkly hilarious, and oddly comforting, Moshfegh's masterpiece is essential for 20-something-year-olds–whether or not you identify as a girl boss.

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