A year into her dream job at a cutthroat Silicon Valley startup, Cassie is trapped in a corporate nightmare. Between the long hours, toxic bosses and unethical projects, she struggles to reconcile the glittering promise of a city where obscene wealth lives alongside abject poverty. Ivy League grads complain about the snack selection from a conference room with a view of houseless people bathing in the bay. Startup burnouts leap into the paths of commuter trains and men literally set themselves on fire in the streets.
Though isolated, Cassie is never alone. From her earliest memory, the black hole has been her constant companion. It feeds on her depression and anxiety, its size changing in relation to her distress. The black hole watches, but it also waits. Its relentless pull draws Cassie ever closer as the world around her unravels.
When her CEO’s demands cross an illegal line and her personal life spirals towards a bleak precipice, Cassie must decide whether the tempting fruits of Silicon Valley are worth the pain, or succumb to the black hole.
“You wake up one day and realize what you’ve become, what you allow, and you have to stare down into the pit at yourself, at your own choices, at the ways in which you have been cunning and stupid and false and wretched to keep up with the world around you. How does anyone bear themselves? How can anyone stare into the darkest corners of humanity and return to the office, enter the meeting room, and deliver the presentation? How do we all just keep working?”
Bleak. Despondent. All too real.
As a gal who has been in corporate/tech for a few years, Ripe really hit home. I finished the book in a state of existential crisis.
Set in Silicon Valley, Ripe deals with toxic workplaces, capatalist cities and cultures, modern relationships and the toll all that stress takes on your mental health. I’ve stared into that same dark abyss that Cassie battles a few times in my life and I can honestly say I’ve never encountered anyone who so perfectly captures the darkness and ugliness of depression the way that Etter does. The magical realism of the black hole that follows Cassie around, shifting its size depending on her mood, was *chef’s kiss*. Etter is a master at encapsulating that heavy feeling of imposter syndrome, burnout and the desperation to survive and be loved whilst also feeling hopeless about society around you.
Ripe really was a gut punch. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a work of art (which is why I’ve given it five stars) but god, was it a tough read in the sense that it was so relatable that it made me burst into tears a few times. It was stressful but also a somewhat cathartic experience. While there are glimmers of hope and brightness scattered in there, Cassie’s loneliess and pain persists and that’s so real. To quote the kids: I felt seen.
It’s one of those rare occasions where a book comes into your life at the perfect time but also the worst. I needed that validation that Etter and Cassie provided. However, I was already spiraling about hyper-capitalism, girl boss work culture and where I sit in that and how I feel about being a cog in the machine etcetera etcetera. I love my job an enormous amount. Yet, being in London can be bleak and the way Cassie feels about San Fran is the way I feel sometimes when I’m in the city and you see the clash between the rows of designer stores versus the rows of tents. Ripe is very clear about that. The apocalyse is here. Dystopia is now. Modernity is hell!
What a haunting book. You’re going to need to be in the right headspace to confront Ripe but it’s a witty, refreshingly real read that pulls no punches about the realities of the urban hellscape, the casual violence of city life, endless debt culture and being a hustling girl boss whilst struggling to make rent. It maybe wasn’t the book that I expected but by god, it was the book I needed.
I’m in awe of Etter. Endless claps!!