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Reviews of Mood Swings by Frankie Barnet

Mood Swings

A Novel

by Frankie Barnet

Mood Swings by Frankie Barnet X
Mood Swings by Frankie Barnet
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    May 2024, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jillian Bell
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Book Summary

In a pre-apocalyptic world not unlike our own, a young Instagram poet starts an affair with a California billionaire who's promised a time machine that will make everything normal again—whatever that means.

Everyone knows something's off, but nobody can agree on just what it is. Maybe it's the weather; maybe everyone's just so damn sensitive these days. Or maybe it's because the animals of the world have finally had enough, besieging towns and cities and terrorizing their human residents.

Jenlena and her best friend Daphne are two humanities grads in their early 20s, trying to find their way in a society that has just eradicated all animals for the safety of humanity. In the post-fauna world, Jenlena transforms from an aspiring poet to a gig worker, capitalizing on other people's grief by selling house plants that have come to replace pets and cosplaying as dogs for pay. Meanwhile Daphne, a once-promising student, flounders in a deep depression, smoking weed and ditching work to hang out with her once famous, now canceled boyfriend. When Jenlena meets the California billionaire Roderick Maeve, and the two become romantically entangled, she is exposed to a new understanding of wealth, power, and the gender economy—just as the world hurtles toward its alleged salvation.

Marked with Frankie Barnet's poignant intelligence and sly sense of humor, Mood Swings is a stand-out debut novel that imagines with pitch-perfect absurdity what comes after life as we know it.

Mood Swings
Chapter 1
Jenlena Stays Inside

1.

It began with over a hundred rats in one long line on Sainte-Catherine Street in the middle of the afternoon. This was just about a year before the machine.

"Rats," spoke the blond-haired woman on the news. "One of our planet's most resourceful species, rats have traditionally survived in the shadows of our society. But today, along one of the city's busiest streets, they have chosen to make themselves known."

"Look at her," sneered Jenlena's roommate Daphne. "It's like she's getting wet for the rats. She doesn't even try to hide it."

"She's trying to ingratiate herself," Jenlena figured. "She wants to be a rat bride."

Ultimately, such an allegiance would prove to be a miscalculation.

2.

Who could believe the mood swings they'd been having? It was in the way they felt but also people's general demeanor, the nuances in their collective frown lines. It was in rivers and streams too, all water, as well as the moonlight, and animals frothing at the mouth...

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Reviews

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When a chance encounter outside a Montreal hotel leads to a casual sexual relationship between Jenlena and Roderick, we see each character from the other's perspective. Roderick, who's been linked to a string of supermodels, loves that Jenlena is, from his point of view, a normal girl. To him, the average-looking younger woman who lives in a basement apartment seems simple and unpretentious. Jenlena is not overly attracted to middle-aged Roderick, and is at first somewhat cynical about their relationship. She has no illusions of love, but is entranced by his world of unimaginable luxury. Readers are sure to draw parallels between Roderick's world-changing actions and the hubris of some members of the Silicon Valley set. As we watch real-life billionaires jetting off into space and promising to "disrupt" entire industries, Roderick's efforts to unilaterally solve Earth's problems feel on brand...continued

Full Review (758 words)

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(Reviewed by Jillian Bell).

Media Reviews

NYLON
A delicious satire that gripped me from the first sentence. Frankie Barnet is not only an architect of the surreal and the absurd, but something of an anthropologist keenly observing society's unique derangement. Mood Swings whips from devastation to euphoria with the same fluidity it takes to doomscroll until the sun rises.

Our Culture
[A] delightful debut novel ... Ridiculously funny and as smart as satires come, Mood Swings is a pitch-perfect Instagram novel attuned for the modern age.

The New York Times Book Review
Mood Swings is a master class in maximalism ... The magic here is in the prose. Though the story itself is sprawling, Barnet's writing is restrained and intentional. Moments that could turn saccharine are made meaningful by astute, almost insulting observations.

Bustle
There is a lot in this novel that should feel deeply strange ... And yet, this surreal world full of tech oligarchs and unmoored 20-somethings feels all too close to home, as if we're looking at our current reality through a funhouse mirror.

Elle
A clever trick mirror for the 'extremely online,' Mood Swings deserves its devotees.

Locus
For a novel that doesn't feature a single paradox, time loop, or change to history, Mood Swings offers up an incisive critique of time-travel narratives ... [A] darkly satirical novel.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Barnet presents a canny portrait of the doomscroll generation, set in an absurdist near-future world ... This is a sharp satire of a hyperonline culture, with genuinely moving insights into modern inequality and climate crisis throughout ... This book is a great choice for fans of Patricia Lockwood's No One Is Talking About This (2021). An off-kilter, hauntingly hilarious debut novel.

Publishers Weekly
[A] bonkers story ... Despite the sobering material, this is a hoot.

Author Blurb Aiden Arata, artist and writer
Mood Swings is a book of vicious wit and glittering, feral prose that lingers like a strange dream. Frankie Barnet possesses an enviable agility with language, zipping between characters with the jubilant chaos of a tilt-a-whirl and unspooling a deceptively devastating meditation on power, morality, and the end of the world. I couldn't stop reading once I started, and I can't stop talking about it now that I've finished. You'll want to hold its beating heart to yours; you'll want to keep it as a pet.

Author Blurb Alexandra Chang, author of Days of Distraction
Frankie Barnet's propulsive, wholly original novel probes our dark preoccupations and our sources of hope in a seemingly hopeless world. Whether digging into the consequences of climate change, the allure of tech billionaires, the repercussions of cancel culture, or the love/hate dynamics of intimate relationships, Barnet's singular voice is dazzling and unexpected. She has that rare ability to be at once poignant and genuinely fun, moving and totally hilarious. This book cracked my brain open in the best way possible—I'm obsessed and want everyone to read it!

Author Blurb George Saunders, Booker Prize-winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo
What a wild ride—Frankie Barnet has written a fast, funny, witty, chilling first novel that, while ostensibly about a future or alternative reality, summons up the feeling of living in this reality with startling acuity.

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Beyond the Book

Montreal in Literature

Covers of Montreal books mentioned in the article Much of Frankie Barnet's novel Mood Swings takes place in Montreal. Nestled in the southwest of Canada's francophone province of Quebec, Montreal is a multicultural and largely bilingual city with a thriving arts scene, which makes it an appealingly unique backdrop for all sorts of literature. Below are some notable books that have been set there.

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler: This satirical novel, published in 1959, follows a working-class young man as he strives to gain wealth and respect, while shining a spotlight on Montreal's anglophone Jewish community. The screenplay for the 1974 film adaptation, co-written by the book's author, was nominated for an Oscar.

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Read-Alikes

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