Madison is fresh out of school with her journalism degree but finds she is jobless as print media lays on its deathbed and the economy is stuck in the middle of a recession. With nothing to do Maddy joins her best friend from college, Karsynn, in Pocatello, Idaho where they both are hired as customer service reps at Lightning Speed Communications call centre, a DSL and cell phone provider. Maddy quickly learns that call centre work is thankless and passes the time gossiping with cubical mate Truong while day dreaming about her charming Belgium coworker, Mika. Maddy interacts with a hodge-podge of personalities in both coworkers and customers while trying to remain sane in call centre work and get Mika to notice her as more than ‘just friends.’
When I heard Lisa Lim’s Confessions of a Call Centre Gal described as Bridget Jones meets The Office I jumped at the chance to read and review. I had also checked out Lisa’s fashion blog by the same name and really liked it. So, I was looking forward to what I thought would be a funny, satirical novel filled with stories about how mind-numbing, soul crushing, but sometimes ridiculous the call centre work environment can be. I very much wanted to enjoy Confessions. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed and have been struggling with how to write this piece since it is my first unfavorable review.
Many chick lit novels use a confessional convention such as first person narrative, which can open a novel to a certain lax writing style. Confessions of a Call Centre Gal is no different, however the style comes off as careless instead of personalized. Although the over-abundance of exclamation points and question marks in succession (!!! or ?!?) recedes as the book goes on I found their inclusion, paired with the liberal use of the caps lock, to be abrupt and distracting. Additionally, the over-usage of slang, abbreviations, or internet speak (“ya know” or “coz” or “WTF”) was tiresome and lacked reasoning.
I found it difficult to relate to any of the characters. Most of them are hyped up, cultural stereotypes such as Ingeborg the Swedish beauty or Truong the Vietnamese gay man who always wears a fashionable scarf, has limp wrists, talks about cocks and asses all day long. Maddy had glimmers of depth that moved past her sarcasm or outrageous thought patterns and behavior, usually when talking about her deceased father. I liked that she admired him; that she had a love of reading and writing because of him. But these moments actually seemed out of place and were quickly washed away by random, stream of consciousness tangents that added nothing but length to the novel. I would have liked to see more of Maddy’s motivation and passion for writing demonstrated instead of just talked about. I think this would have given her direction and purpose.
I have repeatedly read reviews of Confessions that claim it to be “laugh out loud funny.” I did not find this to be true. Most of the calls Maddy describes are meant to be humorous but instead I was confused as to why all the callers seemed to be non-American, cultural stereotypes (Australian, French, German, British) that immediately started screaming into the phone. In addition, there is an entire chapter about a “Learn to Speak Chinese” joke email that lands Maddy and Karsynn in sensitivity training that left my jaw on the floor. I assume the offensive nature of many of the jokes are meant to fit into The Office concept, however, the jokes about race, ability, gender, sexuality, slut shaming, and trans-phobic comments lacked a satirical balance that ostracizes the offender instead of the marginalized group or individual. I always felt like I was supposed to be laughing along with Maddy’s offensive comments or behavior instead of at her, therefore making me complicit in the marginalization of others.
Finally, I thought that the romance between Maddy and Mika seemed like a side note. Their romance was lukewarm and without real conflict. Even the climax fell flat for me and the conclusion was not believable. These two needed some real tension to overcome together for me to feel satisfied.
Overall I still like the concept for this book. Maddy has a lot of the elements of a chick lit heroine: crappy job, romantic interest, unique work setting ready for comedic moments, and a desire to develop herself. Sadly, Confessions of a Call Centre Gal lacks a clear trajectory, requiring a tighter plot and character development, which could come through a good editor.
I read Confessions on my Sony eBook reader. The body of the text was formatted well, however there was no chapter selection or table of contents. You can choose which page number to jump to. Confessions is 789 pages long on small font setting.