The L.A. Review of Books

The L.A. Review of Books review: “Elliott Holt’s fast, electrifying debut is as convincing and absorbing a portrait of post-Soviet Russia as you’ll read. But at its heart, it’s also about America.

You Are One of Them is ultimately about the way the world picks us: to be the ones with boobs, or not; to be the one with the crazy mom, or not; to be the one whose letter a Soviet leader reads, or not. It’s tempting to call Holt’s conclusions hopeful, because she does, in the end, upend these binaries, showing us how the boobless become beautiful, how the crazy mom outshines the apparently perfect robo-parents, and how having one’s letter picked over piles of others doesn’t mean what it seems. But Holt has more restraint than Jerry Bruckheimer, at least, and we don’t lose what we’ve gained along the way.

So much can go wrong. We can be ugly to our best friends, we can resent or even hate our parents, some of whom don’t even bother to spend time with us or know who we are. And at the highest levels of power, men can point ICBMs at each other, roping us all into an ever-darkening game. Spies can defect and people can be poisoned. There will always be conflict and chaos. Yet, at the heart of it all, what Holt wants us to remember is this, her final line: ‘We can destroy ourselves.'”