Review: Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner

Carrie Pilby book cover
Carrie Pilby offers an interesting portrait of an unusual girl, one I can sort of relate to, though she’s way smarter and way more well-balanced at her age than I was.

Carrie is 19 and she’s recently graduated with a degree from Harvard because she’s very, very smart. But she’s also become a bit of a hermit. Her only family is her father, and he’s in Europe. He does support her, though, and she has a decent apartment to hide out in. Because that’s what she’s doing. She spends most of her time lounging in bed in her apartment. She’s obviously got low-grade depression (possibly dysthymia) but it seems to come mostly from being isolated.

And why is she isolated? Well, she’s a little socially awkward, it’s true. But the reader can easily see that the real problem is her worldview. She’s very cynical and sees almost everyone around her as hypocrites (sex-obsessed ones at that). She’s fairly judgmental and holds everyone else up to her own high standard. If they’re not as smart as she is, they’re stupid. If they don’t hold themselves to the same moral standards, they’re horrible. And so on.

So in some ways, she’s not the most likable person. But like every good New Yorker, she has a therapist. Hers challenges her to change her life by doing a few smallish things, and she finally relents and gives it a shot. He’s told her to list 10 things she likes, join a group, go on a date, tell someone she cares, and celebrate New Year’s. For most people, this wouldn’t be hard, but it is for Carrie because she has to change her outlook to make it all happen. So the book is suddenly about dismantling her worldview a piece at a time. Not too far into the book, she finally gets a job that makes her interact with other humans and we start to see her walls shrink a little. Her quest to finish the list takes her a lot of unexpected places and we watch her grow and finally learn how to live a little more happily.

Oh, and it’s funny, too. Self-aware social misfits often are.

You can buy Carrie Pilby: A hilarious and charming story on Amazon