Ambition Monster

A Memoir

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Pub Date Jun 04 2024 | Archive Date Jun 18 2024


A deeply personal memoir about workaholism, the addictive nature of ambition, and the humbling process of picking yourself up when the world lets you down—an anti-girlboss tale for our times for readers of Drinking: A Love Story and Uncanny Valley.

After years of relentlessly racing up the professional ladder, Jennifer Romolini reached the kind of success many crave: a high-profile, C-suite dream job, a book well-received enough that reporters wanted to know the secrets to her success, and a gig traveling around the country giving speeches on “making it.” She had a handsome and clever husband, a precocious child. But beneath this polished surface was a powder keg of unresolved trauma and chronic overwork. It was all about to blow.

Written with self-deprecation and wit, Ambition Monster is a gutsy and powerful look at workaholism and the addictive nature of achievement, the lingering effect of childhood trauma, and the failures of our modern rat race. This is a Cinderella story of success and a brutal appraisal of the cost of capitalism—perfect for people pleasers, overachievers, and those whose traumas have driven them to strike for “goodness,” no matter the cost. With its timely and resonant deconstructing of the American Dream, Ambition Monster is a singular excavation of selfhood, an essential interrogation about the way we work, and an inspiring and affirming call to always bet on yourself.
A deeply personal memoir about workaholism, the addictive nature of ambition, and the humbling process of picking yourself up when the world lets you down—an anti-girlboss tale for our times for...

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ISBN 9781668056585
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Average rating from 33 members

Featured Reviews

The only non-current events, non-book review podcast I listen to regularly is called Everything Is Fine by Jennifer Romolini and Kim France. I stumbled onto it about a year ago, and since then it has become my go to podcast when the world feels too heavy. I did not really know Romolini or France but for vague name recognition that they were two high profile women who previously worked in magazines and tech. I did not know - but know now - that both women are releasing memoirs. Ambition Monster arrives first. This is Romolini's searingly honest attempt to excavate long buried childhood tensions and anxieties, correlate them to her tenacious, difficult but wildly successful accession to the upper echelons of the tech business world, and mine it all for hard-won truths about the nature of work, ambition, and relationships. I have a weakness for well written memoirs charting a woman's path to the top and this one ticked all the boxes. Romolini is a superb wordsmith, a compelling story teller and wise guide. Highly recommend. Thank you Atria and NetGalley for this E-Arc and highly recommend pre-ordering and adding to your TBR shelves.

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This is a gripping memoir, with clear and compelling writing, that felt like several memoirs rolled into one. The early chapters cover the author's childhood and reflections on being the first child of (too) young parents. Then the focus turns to the author's relationships with increasingly terrible men. Finally, we get to the author's professional life and her pursuit of "more" as she pours all of her energy into her work and tolerates toxic office environments along the way.

I found this to be an interesting and enjoyable read though I had expected (and perhaps wanted) more focus/exploration on our culture's obsession with (over)work. Anyone interested in reading about personal resilience and burnout should check out Ambition Monster.

Thank you very much to Atria Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a copy.

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Anyone interested in writing a memoir should read this book. Truly a master class in memoir writing, attention to detail, and reflecting on a past that continues to haunt the future.

Born to teen parents in 1970s Philadelphia, Jennifer Romilini experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of having young caregivers. Her childhood was one of love mixed with neglect and abuse. There are scenes of little Jennifer witnessing wild parties her parents hold at her childhood home, and I couldn’t help comparing her to Daisy Jones of an alternate universe. Jennifer had a rough go of it, but her mom dispensed some advice that stuck with her forever: always make your own money so you don’t have to rely on a man.

Jennifer worked her ass off indeed, holding down dozens of jobs before breaking into media in her late twenties, entering a field largely built on nepotism, money, and connections. Jennifer made it her own way but dealt with a lot of BS in the process - diva colleagues in the pre-2008 economic collapse media space, directionless managers who did not set her up for success, and a particularly cruel unceremonious firing that made her reevaluate what she spent her life working towards.

There’s so much sadness in these pages. Jennifer dated a lot of horrible men before meeting her husband, but I appreciate that she does not look at that relationship through rose-colored lenses either. She tells all about the toll marriage and babies take on relationships. I cried a lot reading about the abusive relationships she found herself in before marrying her partner. This is a book about the cycle of abuse and how we choose people who hurt us when we have been hurt by family members. There’s pregnancy loss, the end of a doomed marriage before a better one that also loses its shine, and the sad reality that work will never be there for you no matter how much you give.

This is going to be one of the most important books out in 2024. It reminds me of so many other brilliant memoirs - THE GLASS CASTLE, MAID, CLASS - and the upcoming FIRST LOVE by Lilly Dancyger.

Anyone who has worked in online media will feel seen by this book - the shaky nature of Facebook algorithms, pivots to video destroying livelihoods, page views and content coming before quality. I don’t think you need to be in the media world to appreciate the greater message, though: work is not a personality.

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You can tell that the author has worked in publishing and editing for years -- the voice is strong, every word is carefully chosen, and the entire book was such a pleasure to read. This is a very personal story and she really opens up -- seeing someone come from a family that prizes clawing one's way up the ladder from working-class roots really showcases just how much more has to be given. The toll it took on her mental health was palpable. The ending was a bit rushed and there was never a particularly satisfying conclusion, but of course, this is an ongoing story!

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Reading Ambition Monster was like reading something from the older sister I wish I had. Her stories could have worked together in so many ways (say, in a book of essays) but I'm glad this was the end product. Starting before her own birth set the stage for a life I found easily relatable.  I appreciated Romolini's ability to accurately describe her experiences in such a cold, corporate world. Her incredibly-crafted paragraphs are layered with emotion and humor, a kind of 'yeah, and?' attitude that demonstrates just how memorable, impactful, and important sometimes small and sometimes large moments in her life were, confirming my early interest in the book. It's hard not to relate, or at the very least, understand, even when Romolini does something the reader might disagree with. We all know something bad will happen if she makes a questionable decision in Ambition Monster, but of course she'd try getting that chair upstairs just a couple days after giving birth. Her stories stick to me, the lessons learned and lessons ignored, the reality of setting boundaries with unhealthy family members, the loss of incredible close female friendships, the unhealthy partners, the drag of a career that isn't just unfulfilling, but hurting you AND others. And seemingly, you're the only one who sees it. 

Romolini speaks a lot of truth in Ambition Monster, but unlike other tales of women in the workplace, this one feels genuine. She recognizes the fear that's been there her whole life, and when recounting her past relationships, does so with the benefit of who she is now, understanding her own place and responsibility in situations that many might recount differently. The honesty in Ambition Monster is inspiring and grounding. It's not just me, others have been through similar experiences. There is hope in a community of people who understand what it's like to keep chasing something that just isn't there. But they are honest, and most importantly, they truly want to be better people.

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The #girlboss #hustle era is OVER!!! Although it takes Jennifer many many years to come to that conclusion. We watch as she struggles through life in NYC as a wannabe writer, dating a string of unworthy men and yearning for more. When she finally gets to the top, she realizes it's not worth all that she's had to give up for success. This is a memoir about workaholism, capitalism, and people-pleasing, and why none of those things will lead to a happy life. She writes with honest wit and interesting anecdotes, making it an enjoyable story even if you want to scream at her the first 90% to make different decisions.

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A memoir I devoured in a day. the author brings us into her life her world.I loved following ,her experiences her life.This is a book I will be recommending and gifting to friends.#netgalley #atriabooks

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I read this book in one sitting. I don't think I've ever rooted as hard for an author of a memoir as hard as I rooted for Jennifer Romolini. The book spoke to me about being both completely unmoored in her life while also being super driven at work. Romolini writes so eloquently about this duality.

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Jennifer Romolini paints a vivid portrait of workaholism driven by childhood trauma, the consequences, and the work required to begin the healing required for herself and her life as a whole.

In the prologue she lays out the problem statement that this book goes on to recount: "Work made me feel like I was somebody other than the unlovable monster I was quite sure I was inside." We learn about all of the sacrifices she makes in her life, her ethics, and her health, to get the approval she desired. Ambition Monster includes detailed descriptions of the chaos of jobs ranging from waitress, to editor, to C-suite level. The level of dysfunction throughout, including her stint at Yahoo, which is not named, but easily googled via the stomach churning "Bobbie Had a Nickel" story, is heartbreaking and paints an incredibly grim picture of the life for which she strived.

The memoir is meticulously written and engaging for anyone looking for an inside look into the #girlboss culture. I do wish she had spent more time discussing how she began to repair and heal from decades of trauma, both work-related and not. She voices many of the fears I think a lot of women face, "I'm also worried that slowing down will mean losing my place in some imaginary race that exists only in my mind." and hearing more on how she managed to pull herself out of that mindset and more on her perspective would be valuable.

Thank you very much to Atria Books for providing a copy of Ambition Monster in exchange for my honest review.

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