At twenty-one, Alexa - “Alex” - is a college student facing an identity crisis of sorts. She wants to join the “real world,” which she has defined as having a “real job” in New York, a “real life,” and a “real future.” Really, Alex just wants a job in New York, and she has given herself seven month, three weeks, and two days to secure a job there. Alex attends college in Pennsylvania, and her kind, thoughtful boyfriend Jared attends NYU in New York. Jared has already procured a desirable position at the auction house Christie’s, and he plans to stay in New York indefinitely. The question is whether Alex will get a job in New York and be near Jared.
While Alex is happy for Jared that he was able to find a great job, she is jealous and feeling sorry for herself. She is determined to plunge into the “real world” and starts job-hunting and firing off resumes to various companies and businesses in New York. Alex is obsessed with finding a position, but she has absolutely no clue what field of work she is interested in. So off Alex goes to blindly apply for jobs, submit resumes and seek out various positions ranging from phone sex operator to park ranger. Every rejection she receives results in panicky soul-searching and mini-meltdowns.
Frankly, Alex’s attitude and obsession about finding a job do not come across as realistic or even plausible in Help Wanted, Desperately. If she is so obsessed with finding a job, why didn’t she think about “what she wanted to be in life” sooner? She is an English major, likes singing in karaoke bars, and she eats Chinese food everyday – that is all she seems to know of herself. She takes the messages on the fortune cookies rather seriously, and they “guide" throughout most of the book.
Meanwhile, Alex’s parents have offered to let her move home after college if she cannot get a job in New York. Her parents live in New Jersey, and Alex would still be able to see Jared - which would greatly please Alex’s mother, as she believes that Jared will propose marriage to Alex at any time (if not yesterday). Jared clearly loves Alex, and he gently encourages her to keep at the job search. He is very supportive of her when she has her temper tantrums and when she fumbles one job interview after another – by telling fantastical lies about her qualifications, talking about sex toys during an interview, etc.
Alex does have a back-up plan if she cannot find a job in New York in seven months, three weeks and two days. She will head off to a far away, disease-ridden place called Majuro, where she will be a teacher for one year to children. Certainly this is an honorable mission, but it is Alex’s last resort. She would much rather get a job and relocate to New York to begin her “real life.” Majuro is simply Alex’s back-up plan to punish herself for one year in the event she is still unemployed by her self-imposed deadline.
Alex is not a particularly likeable character because she is so immature and idiotic. Her job search is the entire plot of Help Wanted, Desperately. There are minor subplots involving her relationship with Jared, her roommates, her parents, and her sister’s wedding. That is the sum total of Help Wanted, Desperately. The book’s main flaw is that there is not enough of a plotline to carry the book. Something else needs to “happen” in the book, or more characters are needed to make this a decent chick-lit story. The book does have its amusing moments, and that humor is the highlight of the book. Regardless, reading about Alex’s job search fiascos for the entire 342 pages will wear down most readers, as well the numerous and relentless references to Majuro. Fans of chick-lit and women’s fiction should pass up Help Wanted, Desperately for better books in this genre.