May 23, 2022 6:25 AM EDT

Several times in a generation, there is a writer who speaks such basic truths—in such skillful prose—that they become a signpost for all our needs and concerns, all our unanswered questions and anxious dreams. When she published Conversations With Friends, Sally Rooney became that person, and her second novel, Normal People, cemented her role as the minimalist examiner of modern romance. She is the rare writer to have coveted merch (I am the proud owner of a Sally Rooney bucket hat), her books are touted as fashionable trophies, and her work has given rise to a cottage industry of lusty fantasy.

Ellius Grace—The New York Times/Redux

But none of these things should dent the fact of her skill as a writer or the incisiveness of her critiques. It’s an uncomfortable thing to be generationally anointed (something about which I have some knowledge), but Rooney has proven herself immune to the mounting pressures: Beautiful World, Where Are You goes meta, grappling with philosophical questions around success, the disconnection of the internet age, and the complexity of adult friendships. Her ability to swerve means she won’t just be the hottest young novelist of the year—she will be a permanent fixture, not just as a hardback in the hands of appealing youth but as a critic in the collective conscience.

Dunham is an actor, author, director, and series creator

More Must-Read Stories From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com.

Simu Liu
Tim Cook
Mary J. Blige
Candace Parker
Volodymyr Zelensky
5 stories
EDIT POST