Synopses & Reviews
An incendiary examination of burnout in millennials — the cultural shifts that got us here, the pressures that sustain it, and the need for drastic change
Do you feel like your life is an endless to-do list? Do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram because you're too exhausted to pick up a book? Are you mired in debt, or feel like you work all the time, or feel pressure to take whatever gives you joy and turn it into a monetizable hustle? Welcome to burnout culture.
While burnout may seem like the default setting for the modern era, in Can't Even, BuzzFeed culture writer and former academic Anne Helen Petersen argues that burnout is a definitional condition for the millennial generation, born out of distrust in the institutions that have failed us, the unrealistic expectations of the modern workplace, and a sharp uptick in anxiety and hopelessness exacerbated by the constant pressure to "perform" our lives online. The genesis for the book is Petersen's viral BuzzFeed article on the topic, which has amassed over eight million reads since its publication in January 2019.
Can't Even goes beyond the original article, as Petersen examines how millennials have arrived at this point of burnout (think: unchecked capitalism and changing labor laws) and examines the phenomenon through a variety of lenses--including how burnout affects the way we work, parent, and socialize — describing its resonance in alarming familiarity. Utilizing a combination of sociohistorical framework, original interviews, and detailed analysis, Can't Even offers a galvanizing, intimate, and ultimately redemptive look at the lives of this much-maligned generation, and will be required reading for both millennials and the parents and employers trying to understand them.
"Petersen delivers a cogent explanation of the millennial landscape, incorporating in-depth research, interviews, and her own experiences to define the problems that millennials face as they attempt to live up to high, occasionally near-impossible expectations." Kirkus (Starred Review)
"Petersen cracks open why millennials behave the way they do and how the lifestyles that have been forced upon them are a detriment to society as a whole." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Trenchant and well-researched...an incisive portrait of a generation primed for revolt." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
A former senior culture writer for BuzzFeed, Anne Helen Petersen now writes her newsletter, Culture Study, as a full-time venture on Substack. Petersen received her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, where she focused on the history of celebrity gossip. Her previous books, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud and Scandals of Classic Hollywood, were featured in NPR, Elle, and the Atlantic. She lives in Missoula, Montana.