Problems is the first person account of Maya, a downtrodden and occasional grad student who is struggling to write a thesis and to quit a heroin addiction. Maya is also bored in what seems like a marriage of convenience and is actively pursuing an affair with one of her professors. Maya’s frank observations about sex and sexual desire, although self-destructive, are somehow her most likable attributes, because her analysis of this behavior often comes up short. She seems to attribute most of her follies to her heroin addiction, yet her addiction seems incidental or an after thought, as if the plot of the novel would be exactly the same with or without it. As refreshing as it is to read novels centered on problematic female characters, Problems focuses too much on using an unlikeable character to subvert tropes about addiction without offering much insight into addiction. Written in wispy, broken monologues, the narration contains some witty one-liners, but it is ultimately a too slight novel that doesn’t add much to the genre of melancholic 20-something creative types trying to make it in New York City.
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