Imposter Syndrome by Kathy Wang is a dynamic spy mystery featuring women who are searching for successful careers. The novel opens with information that Julia, CEO of Tangerine, a Silicon Valley behemoth based on Facebook, is a spy, but the other characters are not aware of this fact. She is the only female CEO in Silicon Valley and a spy for Russia. Alice is a first-generation Chinese-American woman and one of the few female junior engineers working at Tangerine. She discovers an anomaly in the servers, which leads to the discovery of a spy. Alice is surprised to find that the spy is Julia and deliberates about turning her in or protecting her.
Wang is a talented author who creates suspense by exploring the motivations of the characters. The title is a play on the concept of “imposter syndrome,” the psychological pattern of doubting one’s accomplishments. Both women doubt their abilities: Julia’s doubt is due to her fear of being discovered as a spy while Alice’s doubt is due to the racist practices of the company. Julia’s role as a spy is explored through her motivation to be successful and the challenge of juggling corporate leadership and being a new mother. Wang also examines racism against Asian Americans and how immigrants are treated in Silicon Valley.
I enjoyed Imposter Syndrome because Wang gives the reader insight into both the technology world and how women face personal and professional problems there. She creates narrative tension in the relationship between Julia and Alice, who are both dealing with career goals. I found the backstory of why Julia became a spy fascinating and terrifying because of her access to digital data, and I had the opportunity to reflect on what technology companies know about us.