About the Book

Book Protagonist: Sasha Grady Blake
Publication Date: 2010
Genre: Coming of Age


A Visit from the Goon Squad

By Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ is innovatively written across different writing styles - effectively transitioning from newspaper article style to short stories collection style to novel writing style. The book is genuinely complicated, yes! But is also a worthwhile read with loads of introspective lessons to be learned.

Paramount to the entire narrative is the overarching theme of time and the effects it has (mostly harsh) on the lives of people who are just trying to succeed and lead a normal life. Dwelling on the 70s punk rock era, the book thrills but also is mentally demanding as it switches between first, second, and third-person narrative techniques, and constantly requires readers to go back and forth on the pages to fully grasp the demeanor and idiosyncrasies of the (mostly) troubled characters. This article carries an honest, analytical perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ by Jennifer Egan.

Goon Squad Strengths 

Impressing the Pulitzer jurors with your book is one thing, and getting them to give you the prize is another. This goes to show the quality of work in Jennifer Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad.’ Let’s have a critical analysis of what makes this book special and very acclaimed. 

Braving up to a Notoriously Difficult Punk Rock Narrative

One of my first keen observations from ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ is how impressive the entire narrative circles the difficult-to-write-on punk rock music industry. For regular authors, creating a semi-decent plot line for the music of any genre is hard enough, and creating one about a deliberately offensive, nearly chaotic punk rock is twice as hard. Yet Egan handles this so well – executing every scene like she was an aficionado of some sort.

Given, Egan doesn’t write without first conducting rigorous research and real-world interviews, and fact-gathering on her subject, she will have read a lot, interviewed, and met up with important people in this field at the cause of her writing the book. But again, it’s still remarkable to see the quality of the story she’s created on the subject – even without having a music degree or being a punk rocker herself. 

Punk rock is a music genre that is typically built on shouted lyrics on simple songs, fast tempos on complex guitars, and is generally energetic and nonconformist. If we draw from 60s rock iconic bands like The Beach Boys and The Kinks or perhaps more recent ones like Green Day and Radiohead, we would notice that rock music only sold when it’s at its saddest. 

Egan knew this and built her story around strong punk characters like Rhea, Bennie, Scotty, Lou, and Bosco. This is why ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ evokes a mood in the reader’s mind which, like most rock music, is sad and depressing, even though there seems to be a flash of hope and redemption at the end of the book. These feelings aren’t coincidental, but a well throughout, well-executed element of punk rock art. 

A Perfect Bleed of One Story into Another

Transitioning and beautifully joining multiple stories without a bump is another area where Egan does exceptionally well in ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad.’ For a book that is made up of thirteen chapters, and each is a complete, stand-alone story and unique characters in themselves, it would have been maybe impossible (or if it is, then a total piece of work) to get all thirteen chapters to synch. 

But Egan did it with aplomb – turning the book into a straight sailing, an easy-to-read novel that if no one told you they were initially published as single, short story essays, you would dare to think they were standalone. This bleeding technique by Egan does, however, come with its snags which I will talk about later below as part of the book’s weaknesses. 

An Avalanche of Emotions, Moods, and Tones

There are usually more than a few moods and tones to find in typical mono-narrative books – such as Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ but with Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad,’ there are a dozen more given that each chapter has a different narrator who tells a story in their unique perspective on how events from the story affect them. 

For example, the storyline in chapter three is told from the standpoint of Rhea, a young, diehard punk rocker – from whom we also learned a great deal about Jocelyn and Lou’s backgrounds, personalities, and of course, their decadent romance relationship. The overarching emotion of Rhea, while she tells her story, is markedly distinct from that found in chapter five, where Jocelyn narrates her version. 

While both characters maintain a shared morose, dispirited tone as they walk us through their stories, Rhea’s tone carries self-loathing, low self-esteem, a bit of jealousy, and a general show of maturity and competence in handling difficult situations. Jocelyn on the other hand, is capricious and naive and doesn’t have a good grasp of her emotions. This shows in the tone of her narrative, where we see her exhibit extreme – if not murderous – tendencies (especially) toward Lou, who she blames for ruining her life. For all the other chapters, different characters, including Scotty, Jules, and Alison, weigh in as protagonists in their chapters – exhibiting different emotions and tones as they retell their part. 

A Whole Chapter Rendered In PowerPoint; Another in Magazine Article

It’s not often that we see an entire chapter of a novel being written in PowerPoint form or the News Week-type 70s magazine story article, and if a few exist, then certainly not a handful of them can capably drive such creativity into the core of their work. 

Egan’s artful use of the PowerPoint presentation in chapter twelve via Alison Blake’s point of view,  and a magazine article in chapter nine through the eye of Jules Jones unquestionably adds to the overall appeal and hype of the book – because, let’s face it, this literary innovativeness is – and continues to be – a force of attraction for this book. 

The PowerPoint and magazine chapters (especially the former) offer a much-needed sense of refreshment for the readers – allowing them to sort of pause, stop, or time off from the normal ‘boring’ text-type narrative. 

The Weaknesses

No book is executed to complete perfection; no wonder there’s no such literary award as the ‘Perfect Book of the Year Award.’ Jennifer Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad is uniquely written and belongs on the top shelf, no doubt. But even top-shelf-type books are far from perfect. Below are my honest thoughts on what might be some of the imperfections of such a well-written book.

Slightly Underwhelming Role for Frontal Character 

Next to Bennie, Sasha is arguably Goon Squad’s biggest character (or at least that’s what Egan makes her readers think). From page one, she is the one that gets us up to speed with her fascinating personality, and nearly half the other characters are tied to her. 

Despite Sasha being amped up from the start to take up some really important roles throughout the book, it is a bit disappointing to know that only chapter eleven (told by her uncle, Ted,) is dedicated to her – while for the rest of the book she seems more or less a redundant character. 

The PowerPoint Chapter Feels Overdone 

As mentioned before, the PowerPoint Slides coming in as chapter twelve are a huge boost and serve an attractive purpose for the book. It’s perfect. Maybe too perfect. And that is the problem. Because the designer of this PowerPoint is Sasha’s 12-year-old daughter Alison – and there’s no way a 12-year-old could chart, plot and analyze that well.

A Visit from the Goon Squad Review: Rhythms of Connection
  • Story
  • Characters
  • Style
  • Language
  • Setting
  • Impact

A Visit from the Goon Squad Review

Written by Jennifer Egan, ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ is a Pulitzer-winning book that captures the harsh reality of how time flashes so quickly before our eyes – forcing us to watch our dreams and aspirations fizzle out. The book is gripping and engaging and leaves helpful tips for all readers in every page.


  • Creative and Innovative 
  • Use of top-shelf literary techniques
  •  teaches lots of life lessons


  • Underwhelming role for main character 
  • Overdone PowerPoint slides 
  • sexually explicit scenes
Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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