A review by nineteen_adze
Finna, by Nino Cipri


I went in really wanting to like this one, but it just feels awkwardly assembled from pieces that don't necessarily fit together well and landed at about 2.5 stars for me.

There are three major elements: the "pseudo-Ikea has wormholes popping up and we're going to other dimensions" (the one I wanted), the marketed critique of capitalism, and finally the tedious post-breakup drama between these two workers. Of course, that last one is the element that gets the most attention: the brilliant setting is a frame for mediocre breakup angst.

First, the good: the atmosphere of the store in the first few chapters is note-perfect. I like the way LitenVärld spawns wormholes and this is a known and tedious part of the job for people who have worked there for longer, and the names for all the staged rooms are hilarious. With great touches like "Edgelord Rockabilly Dorm Room," I was expecting so much more humor from the rest of the book than I got.

There's plenty to appreciate in the settings Jules and Ava stumble upon (steampunk ocean world!), but I kept sticking on one spoilery detail that's key to the plot:
Spoilerthey find the body of Ursula Nouri, the grandmother they've been sent to retrieve, in one of the first universes they visit. They're only mildly sad (fine, they didn't know her), but then they set off to find the "appropriate replacement" that the FINNA suggests. In a way, it's the creepiest capitalist element in the whole story: the replacement ultimately agrees to go with them because she wants something new, but they're bringing her to the same universe that's crushing the life out of them. They're also bringing a stranger back to Farah, the granddaughter, who might notice that something is weird... but it's not really addressed that her grandmother is irreplaceable and dead. LitenVärld is never going to face accountability for the way their carelessness has killed innocent people: the problem is just papered over.
For me, that sour note surrounding the ending put me off the whole rest of the story.

Possibly my boring thirty-something self is showing, but I found the core "this breakup was awful but I feel this friendship growing between us" element forced and tedious. Jules and Ava broke up *three days* before the story started. Ava can be unkind, but avoiding contact for a while is, in fact, very healthy! If they want to be friends at all, space to recalibrate would be the best move, but the story leans hard on forced bonding and on Ava learning to appreciate Jules more despite their "personal chaos field" and slight unreliability-- it's clear that Jules has some flaws, but they're presented as mostly problems of stress from dealing with bigotry and being different while we live in Ava's constant anxious realizations that she's selfish, mean, self-sabotaging, etc. I couldn't help but like her anyway, but this dynamic pushed the lecturing tone over the line for me.

I agree with most of the points the book is making, but it often lands as a preachy little lecture on "misgendering is bad and so is capitalism" without much to anchor it. There are some excellent details about the company, dark implications around how many might have died or been lost due to cost-saving measures, but they're more a light satirical touch than a focused critique-- I would have appreciated hearing more (or indeed anything at all) from senior employees who have survived wormholes before. Is it just part of the job to them and they're numb to it because they have seniority now? Does LitenVärld pay an extra dollar per hour, and in a capitalist hellscape that's all that matters? Are there non-disclosure agreements, or perhaps just rigorous rules about not having your phone with you during the day (for the secret reason that then you can't film other dimensions)? Just a sentence or three on any of these topics during the long training video chapter would have done wonders and been more interesting than Jules muttering sassily at the video and Ava hearing them from across the room for ~chemistry reasons~ (that's not how muttering works!). This is a "critique of capitalism" like guillotine memes are a critique-- sort of, but there's no real depth there beyond "I'm sad/angry in this system."

I'm also not fully confident that the author has actually worked retail. The most unrealistic details in those whole inter-dimensional adventure take place in the first chapter. Ava and Jules can both afford their own apartments while only working a single minimum-wage type of gig at LitenVärld? Ava is able to rearrange her entire schedule on a dime to avoid Jules and still keep enough hours to afford her rent? By the standards of jobs I've had and seen friends have in the past decade, that's wildly optimistic.

I don't think I would have picked at so many details if I didn't feel some connection or potential in this, but overall it was more frustrating than fun. The non-binary representation is nice if you're looking for that, but the book doesn't have much else to recommend it.