Book Review: Jennifer Government

I really like Max Barry’s Lexicon, so I wandered back to this earlier novel, Jennifer Government. I wanted to like it. I did. But I didn’t. It felt as if I were reading a screenplay, not a novel, and when I looked at the publication date, it reminded me of how we need to time for writers to find their voice and vision. So, yes to Lexicon but no to Jennifer Government. The premise is interesting — the story is set in some not-too-distant future where two business conglomerates are basically running the world, with the government (the United States has taken over a few countries) running a distant third in terms of power.

Employees at companies take on the last name of that company, so John Nike is the villain here, and Jennifer Government is a federal agent chasing him. Other characters include Claire Sears, Hack Nike, etc. You get the picture, right? The pace of the novel is frantic, and I had trouble keeping up with the characters — who are very one dimensional, unfortunately — and the plot points, which are all over the place. It’s almost as if Barry is throwing everything he had into this book (and the author’s note has him thanking a friend for suggesting he remove another main character out all together … yikes.)

Here’s the thing– I wanted to like this book, and I wanted to like the character of Jennifer Government. But it felt as if Barry never gave me the chance to like either. Just as I would be settling in, the plot would shift and move. Like I said, this felt more like a screenplay than a novel. I’m just grateful he has found his voice as a writer now. Lexicon is worth your time.  It will make you think and engages you on a few levels. Jennifer Government — not so much. It will make you want to take a break from the book. That’s never a good thing.

Peace (in the review),



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One Comment
  1. Thanks for sharing this review, Kevin. I recently went and saw the movie “After Earth” at our dollar theater, and enjoyed it but similarly felt the character development wasn’t what it could’ve been. Both your review and that movie reminded me of why it is good for students to experience literature and films that fall short, so they can remember to emphasize different writing elements as simple as developing characters with depth when they create stories.

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