This was a dark, but well written novella. The main character, Mirabelle, leads a sad and lonely life that is punctuated with bad relationships. Martin really hones in on the dark motivations of the men in Mirabelle's life. Martin's celebrity, however, leaves you wondering if he is merely transcribing his own fantasies - leaving the listener a bit unsettled in their perception of this comedic actor.
"Shopgirl" does have its humorous moments, but it's not classic Martin. Rather, it's a darker brand of reality (if one considers LA to be reality). Martin's first full-length fiction book is as fully developed as the premise is original. Martin updates the age-old love triangle consisting, in his tale, of Mirabelle, a lonely young girl in need of true love; Ray Porter, a well-off older man exploring the ways of women; and Jeremy, a young convenient "knight," although he's hardly the shining-armor type.
The title character is Mirabelle, 28, who moved to California with dreams of a "real" life but instead finds herself dependent on a myriad of anti-depressants and working at Neiman Marcus to pay off college loans. Her void in social interaction parallels her life outside of work. A sex-crazed girl in the perfume department seemingly foils Mirabelle at one point, but isn't given enough description or time to develop.
Martin's prose is bland and overly descriptive. He does not provide enough depth or description in character development but goes well beyond when analyzing day-to-day life and characters' appearances and actions. This style occasionally impedes the flow of the story, but overall it enriches the text and forces the reader to pay more attention to one's unconscious observations throughout the daily routine. He accomplishes this with an omniscient narrator and thus lends a unique angle to the story. One technique, which Martin developed well but failed to use often enough, was his original dialogue. Like the great description of Ray's goal of getting into bed without a commitment, and Mirabelle's stereotypical interpretation of that as commitment and love.
The novel is too short to develop more than the superficial plot of love triangle. Martin is clearly new to the genre and his novella leaves something to be desired. But he has the mark of a talented observer, and I hope he will develop this in another work with a less convenient turn of events.