Spoiled Brats is ridiculous in the very best way. It’s a short story collection that avoids the usual pitfalls because the stories work well together and don’t lose steam as they go along. A common theme (spoiled rich kids, mostly) keeps these stories cohesive, and author Simon Rich holds our interest with a unifying style—each chapter is very funny, and they’re all based on a different outlandish premise.
There’s the hamster that narrates a story of starvation and struggle from inside a private school classroom; the text-addicted girl who travels all the way to Saturn just to obsess about her boyfriend; the Brooklynite who’s accidentally brined and pickled, only to be awakened 100 years later to streets crawling with hipsters. The situations are fantastic, but in Rich’s hands they’re still human, realistic and down-to-earth. He remembers what many humor writers forget, which is that story is the key that keeps us reading. His silly characters are treated seriously, even the ridiculous ones (even the hamster), and the book is better for it.
Spoiled Brats mocks its protagonists without being mean; we find ourselves sympathizing and relating with these characters even as we laugh at them. Straight-up cynicism feels a little cruel, but Rich stays away from that, and his stories make the same old tropes feel fresh and funny and new again.
That’s important, because even though the book is technically focused on young rich kids, it’s also a treatise on the self-centered, self-absorbed culture that we all indulge in, at least sometimes. Rich gives us perspective on our ourselves in a way that feels safe because we’re seeing it through the prism of humor and out-of-this-world scenarios.
Spoiled Brats is undeniably funny, but its real genius is that, like the best comedy, it encourages introspection as well.
Carrie Rollwagen is the owner of Church Street Coffee & Books in Birmingham, Alabama.