Book Review: Breathe In, Cash Out

Breathe In, Cash Out by Madeleine Henry

🌺🌺/5

Allegra Chopp has a plan—push through to Bonus Day, then quit her frantic job at the investment banking firm Anderson Shaw, get her 200 hour yoga teaching cert, and live her dream life as a yoga teacher. All she has to do is survive the next two months. Until she fucks her boss. And meets her new yoga guru, Skylar Smith.

Warning: mild spoilers ahead

I wanted to like this so much more than I did. But, I was tricked by that cute cover into thinking this would be a cute contemporary romance with laugh out loud mad-caps while skewering both the ruthless capitalism of Wall Street and the hypocritical reality of yoga influencers.

The world offered in Breath In, Cash Out, is one that is completely superficial, with people obsessing over money and fame and the appearance of having it all while actually dying more and more on the inside. So some turn to culturally appropriated practices to find enlightenment and a sense that all of their efforts are worth it—and are occasionally exploited by assholes looking to exploit the exploiters. It’s a dog eat dog world, and I think the reason I’m so frustrated is because this could have been so much more than it actually was—particularly with the middle-class underdog MC who looks like she wins it all and then leaves it behind to pursue her passion. The potential and idea was there—the execution was not.

Like Severance and #FashionVictim, this offers a look into the self-crazed millennial, and the consequences of social media and the relative ease of finding fame (case in point: Allergies’ sudden popularity on Instagram when she became “discovered”—although not once does she ever really dig beyond the surface).

However, while this book tried to be a satire of capitalism and yoga Ă  la American Psycho, it wasn’t the searing indictment of Wall Street that I was hoping for? Or that it could have been? Same with the potential for a scathing look into the yoga influencer world—it kinda tries, but ultimately falls short. Sure, there’s a barbed reference to Bikram and I’m sure a certain yogic influencer (yeah, I don’t know which one but there have been several who acted like Skylar—and that she’s rotten to the core is not a spoiler, anyone with two eyes and a functioning brain can tell what she is), but aside from that there are no consequences.

No actual yogic teachings or epiphanies. No real look into the cultural appropriation of an ancient religion and practice (beyond a couple limp acknowledgements and descriptions of upscale yoga studios and the pretzel stand dude), but instead a continuation of cultural appropriation and a somewhat arrogant realization that she can teach yoga—and do it well—without formal training of any kind. As for the continued cultural appropriation, she literally changes her insta handle to PretzelYogi to stop her coworkers from finding and making fun of her, but gets the name due to inspiration from the pretzel stand guy who is, get this, Indian. Cue my screaming.

For a first person narration, My-Name-Is-Awful was just…boring and bland (which is painful to say because Amandra is clearly an example of self-insertion)? She has not one ounce of introspection in her entire body and doesn’t possess a single strand of common sense to bounce alongside her two brain cells. Her grand epiphanies are facts that are baldly obvious to the most inattentive reader, and the majority of her issues lie in situations entirely of her own making, caused by her own severe lack of judgment (this is something that she never, ever, not once realizes). 

Yes, I get that she’s grossly sleep-deprived and over-worked, but come on girl you don’t need yoga you need serious therapy.

I think a lot of my frustration was Anaconda’s innate ability to be so fucking awesome at asana…although she doesn’t think much about the rest of yoga. There are some quick-fix yogic things that blow up epically in her face, but we’re constantly told how good she is at yoga (and how authentic her Insta feels, despite it being literally videos and pictures she posted while training for a big yoga competition) and everything else, while inside she’s like, “But I’m not??” (I get Imposter Syndrome, but girl basically transforms into Skylar in the end). Granted, she’s remarkably good at asana, because despite constantly thinking she’s out of shape and has no muscle definition whatsoever she considers the splits a resting warm-up position and can pop into full handstand scorpion with little to no warm-up or training. Oh, and she can take gold at a yoga competition with no formal training in asana (yeah, this is a thing that happened…but before the book started).

Additionally, everything with Skylar makes me want to scream and punch Annalisa in the face. HOW DID YOU NOT SEE THAT COMING?? And also—the police are totally who you call after that.

Also, I was disappointed with the entire thing with the sleeping with her boss. It was terrible, he was terrible, it kinda didn’t really continue, but while she constantly goes “omg I slept with my boss??” she never once really reflects back on it with any kind of introspection. Plus, the weak-ended romance at the end just made me want to shake my head. Actually, the entirely weak ass ending just made me want to launch my kindle into the nearest active volcano (which, in case you’re wondering, is about 2,280 miles away, which means a driving for 37 hours, a border crossing and a drive through literal purgatory—Atlanta—to get there).

Like the incident with Skylar, the entire book doesn’t go all the way. It pulls its punches, resulting in a frustrating waffling between snarky contemporary romance, office satire and astute social media commentary, becoming neither snarky, nor satire nor astute but something bland and unseasoned. 

It refuses to take things to the limit and provide consequences, and so everyone remains exactly where they started—either physically, emotionally or fame-wise.

I feel like a lot of the halfness to the book, the lack of actually providing something akin to searing commentary on the lives of Wall Street investment bankers, Ivy League financiers, Instayogi influencers and the like, are because the author doesn’t want to burn bridges. This feels like partial memoir, partial wish-fulfillment, and wholly unsatisfying.

I had picked it up because (1) I like yoga and am a certified yoga teacher (2) I left a job that sucked out my literal soul to become a yoga teacher (spoiler: I don’t actually teach) and (3) this looked like a scathing indictment of social media influencers in general and yoga influencers in particular, and the soul-withering world of Wall Street, Ivy League schools and finance.

Ultimately, this was not the book for me.

But maybe it will be for you.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.

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