Anna Yen’s Debut Novel Reads Like Her Own Life

The plot and characters resemble a barely altered page ripped from Yen’s real life.


Photo courtesy: Courtesy William Morrow

San Francisco author Anna Yen’s debut novel, Sophia of Silicon Valley, arrives with considerable promise: Protagonist Sophia Young is a scrappy college graduate and unlikely high-tech industry heroine. Her diabetes causes her overbearing Taiwanese parents to treat her more like a precious heirloom or a 2-year-old toddler than like a young adult daughter. Defiantly sporting a quick tongue, sassy temperament, rapid-scrabble intelligence, and fierce determination to achieve a career in investment banking and snare a prime spouse while rising to the top as a professional woman in male-centric Silicon Valley VCs and startups, Sophia finds her journey is replete with ricochets.

Notably, the plot and characters resemble a barely altered page ripped from Yen’s real life. As an investor relations expert, Yen has guided more than 40 companies through the IPO process. Her clients include Pixar Animation Studios, Amazon, Tesla Motors, and famous—even infamous—technology leaders like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Larry Kramer, and Alan Austin. She also has co-founded several startups. Various press releases and bios on websites and an early copy of her book prove Yen’s current activities pivot with the volatility of the stock market.

Sophia, Yen’s fictional counterpart in a novel that often reads like an adult fairy tale, catapults from her first job at an investment bank to an improbable position as a law firm paralegal—with the help of her (devoted to the point of becoming vapid) best friend, Kate. Impressing her boss, Sophia is pushed out of the law firm nest to become the go-to, right-hand woman for an important client. Her boss heads a software company that produces animated new media entertainment, including a film about toys that come to life. Sound familiar? Get used to it: As mentioned, the book is a hardly veiled rendering of Yen’s biography.

Soon enough, events lead to Sophia having and surviving a serious health crisis, losing and finding male companionship, declaring independence from her parents. and other predictable plot lines. It’s fun to be on the inside, but to hope for insight and depth from Yen is to be disappointed. This is a wintertime beach read: entertaining, with little substance and a story that leaves some readers waiting for payoff that never comes.

Even so, Yen knows Silicon Valley culture and writes with flare and energy. With luck, her next novel will unleash the dark underbelly only hinted at in this first outing.

Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen (William Morrow, 2018, 368 pp., $26.99).