Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House Review

Synopsis: If your funny older sister were the former deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama, her behind-the-scenes political memoir would look something like this…

Alyssa Mastromonaco worked for Barack Obama for almost a decade, and long before his run for president. From the then-senator’s early days in Congress to his years in the Oval Office, she made Hope and Change happen through blood, sweat, tears, and lots of briefing binders.

But for every historic occasion-meeting the queen at Buckingham Palace, bursting in on secret climate talks, or nailing a campaign speech in a hailstorm-there were dozens of less-than-perfect moments when it was up to Alyssa to save the day. Like the time she learned the hard way that there aren’t nearly enough bathrooms at the Vatican.

Full of hilarious, never-before-told stories, WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? is an intimate portrait of a president, a book about how to get stuff done, and the story of how one woman challenged, again and again, what a “White House official” is supposed to look like. Here Alyssa shares the strategies that made her successful in politics and beyond, including the importance of confidence, the value of not being a jerk, and why ultimately everything comes down to hard work (and always carrying a spare tampon).

Told in a smart, original voice and topped off with a couple of really good cat stories, WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? is a promising debut from a savvy political star.

Review: like, 4/5. I dunno really

Because I cannot do anything earnestly, I’ll preface this review by saying that I really, really hate the title of this book. It’s a blatant play on Mindy Kaling’s first book, but it doesn’t stick in the memory. In fact, I couldn’t remember the title well enough to look it up, and had to go by the author’s name.

Note from later: GOD, I’M EVEN MADDER ABOUT THIS TITLE NOW. It looks flippin’ ridiculous. “Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House Review.” That’s insane. WHOEVER GREENLIT THIS TITLE WAS NOT THINKING ABOUT BOOK BLOGGERS.

With some mild intense title-related complaining out of the way, let’s do this thing. (I say, as if I could possibly limit my tendency to complain to just a couple paragraphs in a review of anything.)

I’m debating between three and four stars as I write this. I feel a tad lied to – I was told this was essentially Mindy Kaling’s writing style + politics + fun behind the scenes Obama stories. I am obsessed with Mindy Kaling, politics, behind the scenes stuff, and Obama, so I was IN. I heard about this book through the author’s very charming interview on one of my favorite podcasts, Pod Save America, and I bought it immediately after. So the expectations were high and very specific.

What I got was more…advice book. Heavy on the politics, light on the Obama. Very different from Mindy Kaling – which isn’t, like, automatically a bad thing. Still. Who likes a false promise, am I right? Let alone approximately one bajillion of them.

But don’t let my constant whining fool you – this book is not bad. Not by a long shot. Alyssa Mastromonaco is One Badass Bitch. (I hope she would take that as the compliment it is intended to be.) It makes sense this isn’t just, like, pregaming for Obama’s memoir. It’s about the author herself, which of course makes more sense. Even if ex-POTUS takes up more space on the cover.

It’s also wayyyy more compulsively readable than any political memoir, like, ever. I read it in two sittings. (The second sitting was the last 30 pages because I took cold medicine and fell asleep on this book. No shade to the book; all credit to Nyquil Severe.) It’s not always funny, but it is pretty much always relatable.

A fun thing is that I am this book’s exact target audience. I am six months out from being its epicenter (young women interested in politics ages 15-25). And another fun thing: This book made me kind of, sort of, a little bit want to apply for internships on Capitol Hill. I know. Thanks, Alyssa Ms. Mastromonaco.

It’s not funny, exactly, but it’s wise in this really particular and useful way. Like, it genuinely may have inspired me to try out politics once I’m outta this dump (by which I mean the American college experience). That’s really crazy. I probably will chicken out, but still. Crazy.

Bottom line: Give this book a try! Especially if you’re a girl or semi-interested in politics. Also, listen to Pod Save America.

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