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Truth in Advertising

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  2,943 ratings  ·  538 reviews
A wickedly funny, honest, and poignant debut novel in the spirit of Then We Came to the End and This Is Where I Leave You about the absurdity of corporate life, the complications of love, and the meaning of family.

“F. Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American lives. I have no idea what that means but I believe that in quoting him I appear far more i
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 22nd 2013 by Touchstone (first published January 8th 2013)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  2,943 ratings  ·  538 reviews

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Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
I’m sure that someone cleverer than me has already coined a term for a beach read released in the winter months, and whatever that term is (ski read? Cardigan read? A scarfer? Chalet lit?), it’s applicable to John Kenney’s debut novel. The novel’s protagonist, Finbar (“Fin”) Dolan, is a fairly stock character from books by Jonathan Tropper and Nick Hornby: an immature slacker dude pushing 40 who’s single, bored by his job at a middling New York advertising agency, and with glaring commitment and ...more
Lisa Roche
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
**I procured an Advance Reader's Edition for review from my local indie bookstore and have no other interests in this author or title.**

Some of us prefer to spend our free time wallowing in a great book. Others enjoy watching television or movies that make us laugh. It is clear that author John Kenney has spent a great deal of time doing both because his debut novel, "Truth In Advertising," is a fun and compelling blend of literary fiction and pop culture.

This is the story of
I read somewhere that on average each of us is exposed to something like five thousand advertising messages a day. If you sleep for eight hours that's something like 312 messages - commercials, print ads, Web banners, T-shirt logos, coffee-cup sleeves, sneaker swooshes - an hour.

That's a little scary, huh?

Fin Dolan once had dreams.

"I wanted to write. I wanted to write poetry. To touch people's hearts and open their minds. I wanted to live by the sea, England perhaps/>"I
Bebe (Sarah) Brechner
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Less than 100 pages in, and I've laughed out loud many times - brilliantly written! Here's a sample, where he describes types of advertising people, starting with the true geniuses, the solidly talented and ..."Then there's the rest of us. Me and my coworkers. We do diapers. We do little chocolate candies. We do detergent and dishwashing liquid and air fresheners and toilet paper and paper towels and prescription drugs. Our commercials have cartoon animals or talking germs. It's the stuff you se ...more
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was given an advance copy by the publisher.

The thing with jobs is, they all pretty much suck. Working in construction, working in a cubicle, working in the White House, they all pretty much suck to some degree. Even fulfilling jobs, like being a doctor or a teacher, kind of suck. Even sexy jobs, like advertising copywriter, or shipping mogul, kind of suck. The paperwork, the long hours, the low pay; every job has something that makes it kind of suck, even if it might seem otherwise to an obser
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read a sample of this in the 2012 BEA sampler, and then requested it via NetGalley. It isn't set to come out until 2013, but I think this is one first novel worth a read.

Fin works as a copy writer for an advertising agency in NYC. During the time of the story, his biggest project is diapers, and he has to find ways to be creative while life is in a bit of turmoil - he has called off his wedding and his father is dying.

I feel like a lot of authors write about unhappy peo
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
I love John Kenney's humor pieces in New Yorker and elsewhere, so was eager to read his take on the Ad World. The book did not disappoint. The workplace scenes are hilariously on target. (I'm a veteran of the same business, so trust me, it's truth.) But there's more to this book than laugh-out-loud scenes like Gwyneth Paltrow doing a diapers commercial which has to stop filming because the baby they cast to be hers turns out to be black. The book is funny, yes, but also true and touching in ways ...more
Jacki Leach
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Hilarious and, at times, heartbreaking, 'Truth in Advertising' follows the life story of Fin Dolan, a mildly successful creative writer at an ad agency. He and his siblings grew up with an abusive father, and now that the man is at death's door, Fin is the only one who makes the journey to sit at his father's bedside. Struggling with guilt from calling off his wedding, he's forced to cancel his Christmas vacation in order to produce a commercial for a diaper account. Kenney's experience in the a ...more
Nov 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
*I was sent an advance reader copy from the publisher*

What attracted me to this debut novel is the suggested similarity to Jonathan Tropper's novels. Having finished this book, I can honestly say that fans of Tropper will love this new volume from John Kenney. Much like Tropper, Kenney has a way of dissecting his characters and letting the reader enter their minds and really gain an understanding of them. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew Fin Dolan inside and out.

There is a
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2013
Wow I didn't like this book by John Kenney and evidently others do quite a bit..I'm baffled. I enjoy some satire, in fact, I kind of like it, but Truth in Advertising was a huge swing and miss for me. The satire of the advertising world is so utterly forced, heavy-handed and dare I say phony [even though Kenney used to work in this world] that I never believed that these people trading endless barbs and one-liners to one another were anything other than complete fabrications. The key word in tha ...more
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My favorite kind of novel: smart/funny, with a large not-quite-perfect Irish family set not too deeply in the background. Two quick excerpts, from John Kenney's hardworking ad team and main characters:

Ian says, "It's really like he has no idea what he's doing, like he's in film school."
Pam says, "He's one of the hottest commercial directors in the world."
Ian says, "He keeps using the word 'profanity'. Only he's using it wrong."
I say, "I noticed that. He thinks it m
Dec 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
I don't know how to properly write a review, but I do know that this book is one worth reading. I get to read a fair number of advanced reader copies, and this is one of the best I've read in years. Not "chick lit," no zombies or vampires, no spies or detectives; just a good old-fashioned novel that is both very funny and (for lack of a better word) meaningful. I highly recommend it.
Jul 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
Painfully, wincingly unfunny. There are pages and pages of dialogue that's meant to be snappy and witty, but that's actually predictable and flat. The failed satire of advertising is bad enough, but halfway in, the novel turns into a maudlin family drama. Avoid!
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was given an advance copy of this novel by the publisher.

My father died in August of 2012. He was two days shy of his 64th birthday. Profoundly diabetic, he had a long history of heart trouble, medication manipulation, and noncompliance in regards to his health. He was also known to lie about his condition, sometimes making it seem worse than it was and often not admitting that it was bad as it had been. Needless to say, when he actually died, it came as a bit of a shock. None of us had any ide
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fin Dolan works for a successful New York ad agency. His job is a good one, although he's not exactly on their A-team. Fin is part of the creative group handling the lucrative, if not so glamorous, Snugglies Diaper account.

Indeed, if you read John Kenney's debut novel, "Truth in Advertising," you will gain amazing insight into the finer points of diapers, and the advertising thereof. Moreover, you'll be entertained at the behind-the-scenes machinations of how ads are produced. People will argue
Brian English
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Where to start? I really wanted to like this book but ugh ... It was very annoying. Kenney does a great job evoking the ad biz, but outside of that the book is a mess. The main character way to glib and oh-so-clever. Wanted to punch him I'm the throat. What worse is that this is two books: an average tale of advertising mashed together with a tedious "poor me" voyage of love-me-daddy self discovery. Crappy and obvious love story as a bonus. Stock characters - British boss, brassy producer, gay a ...more
John Luiz
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I almost gave up on this novel in the early pages because the opening didn’t feel very novelistic. There was a frame of a dramatized scene – the shooting of a TV commercial, but very little was dramatized and the early pages were mostly filled with the 1st person narrator offering cynical, albeit very funny, views of the advertising world in a direct monologue to the reader. Then the narrator presented all the key characters in his world in the form of a bulleted list – must like the opening pag ...more
Dec 17, 2012 rated it liked it
About the Book: I’m not entirely sure I would have sought this title out on my own, but when a publisher contacted me about reading it through a promotional give-away on Goodreads, I took the bait. She’d found me on account of my love of male writers Joshua Ferris (whose Then We Came to an End is one of my fave books of the past 10 years) and Jonathan Trooper (who is one of my all-time fave writers. Period.) The truth is, John Kenney’s Truth in Advertising does have a lot of that same sardonic w ...more
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fin Dolan, the advertising agency copywriter and narrator of John Kenney’s engaging first novel, is approaching his 40th birthday while still “waiting for my life to begin.” That Kenney, who brings to this story his own experience of 17 years in the advertising business, is able to transform a man who’s basically drifting through life into such an appealing character is a tribute to his skill. Belying its debut status, Truth in Advertising is a mature novel that veers from pathos to humor and ba ...more
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Finbar Dolan is Holden Caulfield 2013, except he is pushing middle age and Irish Catholic. Fin works as a copywriter at a large New York advertising agency, where he has managed to survive while creating pedestrian copy for pedestrian products. He is our narrator.

Just before Christmas Fin is summoned to the executive suite for what could be his big break, the promotion he has long desired but never worked hard enough to get. What he is given is a task. A client has a revolutionary pr
Sep 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Don't Give Up on This One...
Truth in Advertising started out as a mixed up mess of information. I felt confused and tossed about in Finbar Dolan’s narrative of his confused and tossed about life in the advertising world. Of course, characters have to be introduced and woven into the story, but I felt as though these were people I couldn’t relate to or ever get to know.

THEN the author, John Kenney, cracks the door a tiny bit on Fin’s real life and I was drawn into it. I began to
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing

From the engagement he called off to a wonderful woman, to his using his witty sense of humor as a defense mechanism, Fin is far from over his childhood. He was getting ready to head off on his solo honeymoon over Christmas break when he gets called back to the office to put together an ad for the Super Bowl. He is in the process of making this career making spot (about diapers, no less) when he gets word that his father is dying. The father that he hasn't seen in nearly twenty years. I
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book--it was sort of a modern-day Mad Men story, with the protagonist, Fin, feeling so empty and disconnected, partly because of his soulless job, but also because of childhood tragedy and fear of getting close to anyone. The only reason i gave it 4 stars rather than 5 is that there were parts of his childhood that just seemed a bit trite to me, and I think he could have been a little bit more creative than an abusive Boston Irish dad ruining Fin and his siblings. Also, the ...more
W. Whalin
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
From the opening pages of TRUTH IN ADVERTISING, the reader is plunged into the world of Finbar Dolan who works at a New York advertising agency. The writing is crisp and the storytelling propels the reader into the characters and scenes. John Kenney has crafted an excellent first published novel.

Like many people, Fin wonders if there is value in their work in advertising. He asks his boss, Martin, “is it enough? What we do?”

“Martin stares for a time. “No. It’s not enough. Relative t
Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies
This book grew on me. I'm glad I read some of the reviews saying that they had to get through the first part before they were drawn in and I agree. The first intro to me was excellent, then we go to the present time being overwhelmed with witty banter and a overview of the advertising shoot and the people Finn, the protag. works with and I'm thinking, whoa, too much and kind of cardboard-y. But then we get a little background on Finn and yes there's a lot of stuff about the advertising company a ...more
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book started off slowly, but soon picked up steam as it introduced me to the rollicking world of New York City advertising, and creative writer, Fin Dolan. Fin is not a happy person: his job, his love life, his relationships -- all are unfulfilling. He's got a lot of anger - about his family and his childhood - and it's eating at him relentlessly.

An unexpected phone call brings the news that his father - from whom he is estranged - is dying. Fin tries to ignore this information, but ends u
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
What would it be like if some guy crawled into your head and wrote a novel? This guy--Fin--is genuinely funny. On the treadmill, I laughed out loud. (The last time I laughed was 1990.). I continued to tread, smiling. This guy really gets me. And he went on getting all of it--the struggle to find meaning in the everyday, the eviscerating self-talk, the guilted sqandering of our fleeting little lifespans. Fin is flaw-finding everywhere, traumitized by a past zipped up tight but about to bust the b ...more
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a very enjoyable read -- charming, sad, funny. Don Draper by way of the south side of Boston knowingly narrates a mid-life mid-career crisis, a tragic family past and a possible romantic future set very nicely in contemporary advertising in New York and LA.
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I love the cover! I can't wait to get this book and to read it!
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this book several years ago. Read it closely, marked it carefully, had every intention of posting a thorough and thoughtful analysis at the time. Life got in the way (and let’s face it, life is still in the way). But I was doing some reorganizing lately, and I saw several tabbed passages in the book, and started re-reading some of the portions I marked. And while I can’t remember the book in its entirety, the tabbed portions alone tell a story that is still close to my heart. Anyone else ...more
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Critical Era: Truth in Advertising get the Kirkus star! 4 17 Feb 28, 2013 03:09PM  

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