They scored a hit their first time at bat, and now "The Nanny Diaries' " authors, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, have published their second novel, "Citizen Girl." It picks up pretty much right where the biting "The Nanny Diaries" left off, except for the fact that the heroine of this book is named Girl instead of Nanny. And she's not watching the neglected children of petulant women this time around -- she's working as a glorified assistant to petulant bosses.
Girl is a Wesleyan grad looking to build a meaningful career, while Nanny was an NYU senior struggling to make enough money to finish her degree. The circumstances are a few years removed, but McLaughlin and Kraus have essentially rewritten "The Nanny Diaries" with a new setting and a new set of irritants for our protagonist, but we've got the same book here.
Call her Nanny, call her Girl. She's an idealistic young woman bristling with intelligence and ambition, but she's also vulnerable and yearning -- for the perfect job, the perfect boyfriend and a great big old bite out of the Big Apple. It was fresh and subversive the first time, made famous by its wryly observed details. This new novel, however, has the staleness of '80s chick-empowerment movie "Working Girl," and the details now bore instead of titilate.
Both weirdly generically named women also have a wacky yet supportive family cheering her on while also disapproving of some of the stranger things she finds she must do to make her dreams happen. In "Diaries" it was an eccentric wealthy grandmother giving her tips on how to deal with the overpampered Mrs. X and her overscheduled preschooler. In "Citizen," Girl's mother runs a writers' colony and would blow a feminist gasket if she heard her daughter was wearing a bikini to meet a client.
When we meet Girl, she's working as a gal Friday for old-school feminist Doris Weintruck (author of the '60s classic "Our Say: Teaching Young Women to Step Up and Speak Out!"). After enduring months of demoralizing treatment, Doris reneges on a promise to let Girl present at a conference and steals her research. Girl dares to complain and is sacked on the spot.
Girl must then embark on a humiliating job search, during which she lands a spot at My Company, a women's Web portal. After an interview where she understands nary a word spoken by Guy, the company's manic leader, she is hired to help My Company go after Ms. magazine's archives. Girl thinks she's finally made it -- a job seemingly created for her.
I'm female. I read Ms. Magazine. I've had a yeast infection. I'm a Ms.-toting, yeast infection-surviving, unemployed female.
It turns out, it is too good to be true.
With all the focus groups and doublespeak and marketing jargon, Girl can't decipher My Company's true agenda. She starts to get an idea when she's sent to Los Angeles to meet representatives of a British lingerie manufacturer and is given a makeover by a shrill consultant named Jeffrey.
I tug at the minuscule triangles to try to cover something of my breasts. "Jeffrey, this is work. I'd really prefer a one-piece."
Girl is then tossed into a world of sex clubs. But she sticks with My Company in the hopes of securing a $1 million donation for a nonprofit that saves Eastern European girls smuggled into the country to work as prostitutes. In "Diaries," Nanny is a glutton for Mrs. X's cruel punishment so she could see tiny Grayer enter kindergarten a well-adjusted little boy. When will McLaughlin and Kraus' heroines ever learn?
All the while her career spirals out of control, Girl struggles to be cool with her boyfriend Buster's bachelor/video game designer lifestyle.
This novel with nothing novel to say does offer up heaps of "Manhattan porn." Granted, it's not the rarefied Upper East Side of "Diaries," but "Citizen Girl's" New York is every bit as fabulous. This is the city where job fairs are held in abandoned warehouses and look more like raves, where everyone wears Seven jeans and hangs at chic restaurants like Asia de Cuba.
Is it enough to warrant reading the same book -- essentially -- twice? Depends on how much of a girly Gothamphile you are.
By Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Simon & Schuster, 306 pages, $24.95
Elizabeth Barr is the assistant features editor at The News. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org