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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Applicant

Narrator: Günes Sensoy

ISBN: 9781705090824

Publisher: RB Media, Recorded Books

Publication Date: 02/14/2023

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: 4 Stars 🎧 (ARC)

A singular debut from “an important and radical new literary voice” (Elif Batuman), The Applicant explores with wit and brevity what it means to be an immigrant, woman, and emerging writer.

It’s 2017 and Leyla, a Turkish twenty-something living in Berlin is scrubbing toilets at an Alice in Wonderland-themed hostel after failing her thesis, losing her student visa, and suing her German university in a Kafkaesque attempt to reverse her failure.

Increasingly distant from what used to be at arm’s reach—writerly ambitions, tight knit friendships, a place to call home—Leyla attempts to find solace in the techno beats of Berlin’s nightlife, with little success. Right as the clock winds down on the hold on her visa, Leyla meets a conservative Swedish tourist and—against her political convictions and better judgment—begins to fall in love, or something like it. Will she accept an IKEA life with the Volvo salesman and relinquish her creative dreams, or return to Turkey to her mother and sister, codependent and enmeshed, her father’s ghost still haunting their lives?

While she waits for the German court’s verdict on her future, in the pages of her diary, Leyla begins to parse her unresolved past and untenable present. An indelible character at once precocious and imperiled, Leyla gives voice to the working-class and immigrant struggle to find safety, self-expression, and happiness. The Applicant is an extraordinary dissection of a liminal life between borders and identities, an original and darkly funny debut.


  • A February Indie Next Pick and A Winter/Spring 2023 Indies Introduce Featured Title by the American Booksellers Association

  • A Most Anticipated Book of Winter 2023 by Bustle

  • A Most Anticipated Book of the Year by Vulture

  • A Most Anticipated Book of the Year by Literary Hub

  • A Most Anticipated Debut Book of the Year by Debutiful

  • A Buzziest Debut Novel of the Year by Goodreads

  • A Sparkling Debut to Brighten Up Your Winter by British Vogue

  • with starred reviews from Kirkus and Library Journal

“Told through tense, sardonic journal entries that are as cutting as they are tender, The Applicant sheds light on the grim reality of pursuing the life of an artist.”

— Vulture, 30 Books We Can’t Wait to Read This Winter

“Leyla is a witty, acutely observant, and deeply sympathetic character who manages to tell the details of her life—both the transcendent epiphanies and the debauched aftermaths—with an honesty that disavows patronizing pity. This is a book about some of the largest issues of our time—ethnic identity, national belonging, the psychological traumas of patriarchy and White supremacy, sexual ownership, feminist reckoning—but it is also, and perhaps primarily, a book about the intimacy between a character and a reader as one agrees to talk and the other agrees to listen. A powerful debut that heralds a voice intent on being heard.”

— Kirkus reviews, starred review

“Sometimes you encounter a character in a book who you genuinely want to hang out with. We could be friends in real life, you think. Reader, meet Leyla… a protagonist to root for.”

— Literary Hub, Most Anticipated Books of 2023

“The Applicant is a stunning debut, marking the arrival of an important and radical new literary voice. Nazlı Koca’s narrator, Leyla, a Turkish ex-student desperate to extend her stay in Berlin, ruthlessly interrogates the unspoken compromises, hypocrisies, double standards, and hierarchies that govern life in what can broadly be called the western world. An exhilarating and sometimes alarming tour of a rarely described stratum of migrants, workers, and ex-students. Electric, witty, compulsively readable, humane, and excoriating. A book I won’t forget.”

—Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot and Either/Or

“Hilarious and troubling in equal parts, The Applicant is an unforgettable meditation on sex, censorship, displacement, and loss. Nazlı Koca captures the cacophonous rhythms of an emotionally eviscerated life with verve and humor.”

— Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, author of Call Me Zebra and Savage Tongues

“The Applicant is an exceptional novel, part kunstroman, part bildungsroman, part newcomer's guide to the S-Bahn and U-Bahn of art, work, art work, sex work, drugs and immigration. Like Acker, Koca is her own (displaced) Dante, guiding herself and her readers through a lively urban nocturne constellated with literature and alight with that most vital and phenomenal of currents: youth.”

— Joyelle McSweeney, author of Toxicon and Arachne

“An exuberant debut from Nazlı Koca, who has something to declare about both the boldness and the fear gripping the young navigating the cruel farce of our modern world. A smart mix of fury and wit, altogether timely about the chasms of class and identity, the pull of family and the search for self.”

— Manuel Muñoz, author of The Consequences

“Nazlı Koca has the rare gift of making you laugh and weep within a page. Bold and original, the writing pulses with techno, soap operas, and late-night banter. But like the silence between two beats, its profound wisdom and unbearable tenderness reverberate. Quietly devastating, The Applicant left me with the most wonderful ache.”

— Sanaë Lemoine, author of The Margot Affair

"The Applicant is brilliant in its mordant and moving portrait of Leyla, a Turkish immigrant in Berlin who cleans a hostel for pay, parties by night, and yearns for the freedom to write every moment in between. Shining a critically frank light on citizenship, censorship, belonging and loss, Nazlı Koca writes masterfully about a young artist’s sheer will to live and to write despite the monumental cost of living as a migrant in the Western world. I inhaled this novel like its pages were air to breathe."

— Mina Seçkin, author of The Four Humors

"The Applicant is a virtuosic, visceral meditation on borders, in-betweenness, and identity, and a testament to why we read in the first place: to laugh, to be devastated. With exhilarating and eviscerating wit, Nazlı Koca is a daring and provocative prose stylist with heart."

— Patrick Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

My Review

Nazli Koca delivers an insightful and smashing debut, THE APPLICANT. A raw, honest, gut-wrenching, witty tale of a young Turkish writer living in Berlin and the struggles of being a young immigrant woman.

Leyla was raised in Istanbul by a resentful mother and an abusive, alcoholic father. She wanted to go to Berlin and write with the vagabonds.

Now in her mid-twenties and living in Berlin, she cleans toilets at an Alice in Wonderland-themed hostel after failing her master's thesis, losing her student visa, and suing her university for readmittance or being deported back to Turkey.

She is still on a student visa, only allowed to work twenty hours a week, which is not enough to live. While she waits in bureaucratic limbo for her case to be resolved, Leyla is not allowed to enroll in another program or take a full-time job.

While in limbo, she records her day-to-day experiences. Is her time running out on her visa and her dreams? From smoking, alcohol, drugs, sex, and partying in the Berlin club scene, she numbs herself as she tries to clean the filth of humanity.

Will she ever be free? She barely makes enough to pay for her health insurance and food. If only she could start over. She thinks about her past and present. Is this her new reality? Her romantic ideals of Berlin are shattered, and she is left cynical and jaded.

Then Leyla meets a right-wing Swedish tourist, and against her better judgment, she falls in love. With him, she can stay in Germany if she wants to accept a traditional and conservative life, but she would be giving up her career as a writer and artist. Would it be better than returning to Turkey?

Written in diary-like entries, an eye-opening exploration of a tragic working-class immigrant and her real struggles. Acutely observant and a profoundly sympathetic character, a novel of self-identity and life between the borders—an educational and enlighting debut that is darkly funny.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Günes Sensoy for an engaging listening experience.

For fans of recent novels, Wendell Steavenson's Margot and Jessica George's Maame. Also, Sylvia Plath's poem by the same name, The Applicant. Plath's poem (1962) is a satirical 'interview' that comments on the meaning of marriage, condemns gender stereotypes, and details the loss of identity one feels when adhering to social expectations. The poem focuses on the role of women in a conventional marriage, and Plath employs themes such as conformity to gender norms.

Nazli Koca's THE APPLICANT is a modern-day realistic look at life as an immigrant. The author gives us a brilliant inside look at Leyla's forced conformity. The novel is timely, exploring the critical issues of our time, from class, immigrants, ethnic identity, racism, white supremacy, feminism, sexual ownership, and many others.

A powerful, thought-provoking debut that offers devastating insights into the search for self.

In a world where the people of Turkey are fighting for their lives at this very moment, this book is more timely and critical than ever.

Thanks to #RBMedia #Recorded Books and #NetGalley for a gifted ALC. I did experience some technical issues with the audiobook (continued to stop); however, I assume this will be worked out before the final production.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 4 Stars

Pub Date: Feb 14, 2023

About the Author

I’m Naz, a writer and poet from Turkey who lives in the US.

My first novel, The Applicant, will be released on February 14, 2023 with Grove Press in the US, Corsair in the UK and Australia, Mapa Editorial in Spain, and Recorded Books as an audiobook.

While writing The Applicant, I worked as a cleaner, dishwasher, and bookseller in Berlin, South Bend, Chicago, and New York. I’ve also taught and studied Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Denver.

My work has previously appeared in The Threepenny Review, Bookforum, Second Factory, QSQOQST, books without covers, and The Chicago Review of Books. WEBSITE



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