Review: Young Money

Kevin Roose’s The Unlikely Disciple was one of the most insightful and compassionate books I’ve read. Once you see a writer produce something like that, you have to give his next book a read no matter what.  Young Money is a look at entry level jobs on Wall Street and the people who took them in the middle of the biggest downturn since the Great Depression.

We start by meeting a set of new financiers who were willing to let Roose “embed” with them for a couple years of writing.  It’s clear that he was looking for a diverse lot, and does well at finding them.  He finds several women and minorities as well as people well off the Ivy League path that so often leads to these particular corridors of power. Roose connects us to these folks quickly and believably, and takes us with them on their trip into (and maybe back out of) high finance.

In addition we get a look at the combination of hazing, indoctrination, and training that is the entry level Wall Street experience.  Though Roose does his best to bring out the unique aspects of Wall Street, I was often struck by how much the young peoples’ experience resembled my graduate school experience.  Long hours, busy work, demands placed on you just to get you to demonstrate loyalty – yep, been there.  Of course, I wasn’t making $100K and living in New York, but …

All of this is well done and informative, but the key facet that Roose brings to this whole endeavour is his humanism and compassion.  The reader can tell that his biases are to dislike these folks.  He wants them to be greed-driven pirates who would run the country’s economy into the ground to gather money.  But he can’t do it.  Much as he did at Liberty University, he cannot stop seeing these story elements as young people.  He never loses their humanity.

They have their faults, and Roose puts those out there honestly.  But even when he’s relating the most boorish behavior exhibited by the most entrenched Wall Street villains – who probably did wreck the economy to make a fast buck – he can’t demonize them.  It’s a powerful skill and helps the book and the reader maintain a sense of perspective about the subject and the system.

Strongly Recommended.

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