"IN SHORT: MILLENNIALS are over," Taylor Lorenz wrote in BuzzFeed in October. "It was fun while it lasted. But like a slice of avocado toast left too long in the sun, our cultural relevance has begun to rot."
The year 2018, Lorenz argues, will be the year the media obsession with the selfie generation (birth dates: roughly 1982 through 1999) finally fades.
Arriving during this transition period between millen-nialism and whatever comes next is Kids These Days, Malcolm Harris' thoughtful and deeply researched portrait of the cultural, political, and economic factors that shaped the millennial generation. In his telling, it's not a pretty picture: Millennials are anxious, depressed, and above all financially screwed by an American system that increasingly produces rampant economic inequality. There's plenty right with this thesis, even if the message is marred by the author's need to blame everything on capitalism.
To understand the book, it's helpful to know some things about Harris. First, he is a millennial. The cover of the book proudly notes its author was born in 1988, the veritable eye of the millennial storm. (Note: The author of this review was born in 1988, too.) Harris is also an ardent leftist, of the anarchist variety, who first came to national attention as a leader of the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. Harris became known for stunts; he tricked several news outlets into thinking the band Radiohead was going to perform at Zuccotti Park, for example, later admitting his involvement in the hoax to Gawker. He was also among the Occupiers arrested for marching across the Brooklyn Bridge in defiance of police orders.
But there's little of Harris' characteristic mischief making in Kids These Days, which suggests the author, like the generation he represents, may have finally grown up. Instead, the book is filled with charts and data to support his claims about the average millennial's less-than-ideal quality of life. Depression rates have increased "1,000 percent over the past century," writes Harris, "with around half of that growth occurring since the late 1980s." It's no wonder they're depressed, he continues: They were sold a raw deal. They worked hard at school, drilled relentlessly to pass their college entrance exams, borrowed massive sums of money to afford university tuition, and then discovered that the promised reward--a well-paying job--was by no means guaranteed.
"Higher education is, in addition to many other things, an economic...