Wrong Way: A Novel (Paperback)

Wrong Way: A Novel By Joanne McNeil Cover Image

Wrong Way: A Novel (Paperback)

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Named a Best Book of 2023 by the New Yorker and one of the Top 20 Best Books of 2023 by Esquire magazine.

For years, Teresa has passed from one job to the next, settling into long stretches of time, struggling to build her career in any field or unstick herself from an endless cycle of labor. The dreaded move from one gig to another is starting to feel unbearable. When a recruiter connects her with a contract position at AllOver, it appears to check all her prerequisites for a “good” job. It’s a fintech corporation with progressive hiring policies and a social justice-minded mission statement. Their new service for premium members: a functional fleet of driverless cars. The future of transportation. As her new-hire orientation reveals, the distance between AllOver’s claims and its actions is wide, but the lure of financial stability and a flexible schedule is enough to keep Teresa driving forward.

Joanne McNeil, who often reports on how the human experience intersects with labor and technology brings blazing compassion and criticism to Wrong Way, examining the treacherous gaps between the working and middle classes wrought by the age of AI. Within these divides, McNeil turns the unsaid into the unignorable, and captures the existential perils imposed by a nonstop, full-service gig economy.

Joanne McNeil was the inaugural winner of the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation’s Arts Writing Award for an emerging writer. She has been a resident at Eyebeam, a Logan Nonfiction Program fellow, and an instructor at the School for Poetic Computation.

Joanne is the author of Lurking: How a Person Became a User.


Product Details ISBN: 9780374610661
ISBN-10: 0374610665
Publisher: MCD x FSG Originals
Publication Date: November 14th, 2023
Pages: 288
Language: English

Best Books of 2023, The New Yorker
Top 20 Best Books of 2023, Esquire
Endless Bookshelf Book of the Year
Best Tech Books of 2023, Los Angeles Times
An Esquire Book Club Pick

“[Wrong Way] gave me a pleasant sense that I was witnessing a literary sneak attack on the very idea of 'the future' as commonly constructed in fiction.”
—Peter C. Baker, The New Yorker

"What makes us human, Wrong Way suggests, is our ability to feel hurt, to ache, to long. But the desires for stability and for a story that makes sense are ones that, ultimately, not everyone gets to fulfill. Technological development has a human cost. Reading McNeil’s novel, one might wonder if it’s too late to imagine the future otherwise."
—Bekah Waalkes, The Atlantic

"A tense and remorseful piece of working-class surrealism (barely), as if Magnus Mills The Scheme For Full Employment had been written by Anita Brookner. Because of McNeil's acute writing about tech and media this debut novel has been, understandably, treated almost as if it were nonfiction. I sensed parallels to Theranos and other outrages of our time, sure. But the novel is also an irreducible container for intimate strangeness and sorrow. That's what's I love about novels."
—Jonathan Lethem, author of Brooklyn Crime Novel, on Instagram

"Drop everything and find a copy of Wrong Way. This remarkable book is many things : a deep history of America through the lens of marginal employment, a social history of isolation, and an economic palimpsest of the architecture of New England mill towns. Wrong Way is the first novel by Joanne McNeil, who has a fine ear for American usages and a sneaky sense of humor evident from the first pages... It’s an engaging and provocative work, the best book I’ve read this year."
—Henry Wessells, Endless Bookshelf

“McNeil’s book offers a visceral, bitingly satirical look at what it means when we serve technology at the expense of our own bodies.”
—Carolina Miranda, Los Angeles Times

"[Wrong Way] skillfully blends a beautiful literary style — focused on characterization, inner life, human relations — with a sci-fi story set in an alternative present / very near future."
—This Machine Kills podcast

“Longtime tech writer Joanne McNeil’s satirical and sentimental debut novel, Wrong Way, flips the org chart for the gig worker’s view….Although the dystopian features of McNeil’s plot might invite comparisons to blunt-force technoskeptical commentaries like 2013’s The Circle by Dave Eggers, Wrong Way lands a little more squarely in the literary tradition.”
—Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times

"[A] smart debut novel...By creating a predicament for her protagonist that could soon resemble ones we'll face, McNeil creates a compelling examination of work and our relationship to it."
—Jillian Law, Booklist

"A strange, surprising, and sinister kaleidoscope of a novel. Joanne McNeil, with a dazzling wit and eye for detail, guides us through a capitalist gig-economy world both relatable and startlingly visionary. Wrong Way stands out sparklingly from the crowd of current novels. I found myself describing it, recommending it, to a person on the subway I barely knew. I really love this book.”
—Scott Heim, author of Mysterious Skin

"With her signature mix of intelligent, tender, and engaging prose, Joanne McNeil has written a brilliant novel in Wrong Way, which interrogates the promises of the tech utopia through the lives of the invisible labor behind the hype."
—Zito Madu, author of The Minotaur at Calla Lanza

“A Ballardian tale of pristine corporate campuses and aspirational product marketing, Wrong Way reveals to us the very human cost of the AI future we’ve already been sold and makes us question how many lies and absurdities we’re willing to accept in order to try to feel like we belong here. Subtle and beautiful, Joanne McNeil’s masterful debut is a powerful example of what the contemporary novel can and should be in our endlessly perplexing times.”
—Tim Maughan, author of Infinite Detail

“No one understands the dark side of the gifts offered by billionaire tech gurus better than Joanne McNeil. With Wrong Way, our most prescient tech critic has turned to fiction, giving us a glimpse of a near future defined less by wondrous new gadgets and genius AI than by with the pretense of innovation slapped on ever more alienating work done by people who remain, despite everything, human. In prose at times dreamy and lacerating, McNeil shows us what’s coming, and how easily we might wind up accepting it.”
—Sarah Jaffe, author of Work Won’t Love You Back

"Wrong Way is a chilling portrait of economic precarity, and a disturbing reminder of how attempts to optimize life and work leave us all alienated."
—Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire

"[A] sharply observed, extremely well-written novel."
Kirkus Reviews

"A warm beating heart drives this smart and timely tale."
Publishers Weekly