In Review

Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen 

Why millennials are overworked and undervalued, ‘overstimulated’ but ‘alienated’

Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen

Millennials are often characterised as fickle, lazy and entitled, said Sian Cain in The Guardian. But in Can’t Even, the US journalist and academic Anne Helen Petersen suggests that they are in fact victims of “burnout”.

This book, expanded from a BuzzFeed essay that went viral in 2019, suggests that millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) feel overworked and undervalued, “overstimulated” but “alienated” – and permanently anxious, as the prospect of solid jobs and of other social protections enjoyed by previous generations seems to recede.

For Petersen, “burnout” doesn’t signify total exhaustion so much as a “state of emotional paralysis” brought on by feeling overburdened, said Eleanor Halls in The Daily Telegraph.

The problem, she suggests, lies not only in economic forces, but also in the pushy parenting favoured from the 1980s on – a recipe for endless anxiety. With its “moments of self-pity and nihilism”, this book is sure to “irritate older readers”, said Megan Agnew in The Sunday Times. However, as a millennial, I found it a “searing” analysis of why so many in my generation constantly feel that they are falling short.

Chatto & Windus 304pp £14.99; The Week bookshop £11.99

Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen
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To order this title or any other book in print, visit theweekbookshop.co.uk, or speak to a bookseller on 020-3176 3835. Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9am-5.30pm and Sunday 10am-4pm.

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