Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Follow Me

Title:  Follow Me
Author:  Kathleen Barber
Publication Information:  Gallery Books. 2020. 352 pages.
ISBN:  1982101989 / 978-1982101985

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Everyone on the internet is a liar."

Favorite Quote:  "If I had learned anything from working with social media, it was that pretending to have confidence was just as important - if not more so - as actually having it." 

Follow Me. Audrey is the one being followed. In some aspects of her life, she wants to be followed. She invites it, encourages it, and makes it her very lifestyle. However, it gets out of hand and terrifies her. The question is who is doing the following?

The book has only a handful of characters. Audrey lives her life online and is considered a social media influencer. Cat is an attorney and Audrey's friend from college. Nick is an old and perhaps new friend with benefits. Connor is Cat's colleague and crush. Lawrence is Audrey's colleague. Max is someone's from Cat's past. Ryan is Audrey's neighbor. Finally, "Him" is Audrey's stalker. The question is which of these individuals is "Him"?

The narrative clearly sets up the main characters. The chapters alternate the narrative from the perspective of Audrey, Cat, and "Him." That leaves Nick, Connor, Lawrence, and Max - the men - as the possible candidates to be "Him." That is, unless, the story introduces an unknown into the mix at some point.

The characters feel like they are in middle school. This girl likes that boy, but that boy likes this other girl. There is the popular girl and the bullied girl. This guy is the outgoing, athletic one. This one is sweet but shy and awkward. This other one is just weird. Parents and families are the cause of anxiety and insecurities. Life is about being liked.

The issue is that these are not middle schoolers. These are adults - two attorneys, a social media manager, and two others whose have jobs but I don't know what they are. The "adult" aspects of their lives are glossed over even though the story relies on major moves due to jobs and stresses about promotions. The even bigger issue is that the characters do not develop or evolve or grow up. Sadly, that means that none of them are particularly likable. 

That is surprising given the seriousness of the topic. One of these characters is being stalked. Her computer has been hacked. Her apartment has been broken into. Yet, the tagline of the main character is, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you more interesting." Somehow, the seriousness of what is happening to her seems lost for me in what seems to be middle school drama. I find myself not taking the threat to her seriously and not investing in the outcome for her.

Also, surprisingly, I guess about one of the outcomes of the book about a quarter of the way into the book. This outcome is only somewhat related to the stalking. It comes clear nevertheless because it runs true to the stereotype for the relationship set up. That is a cryptic explanation but anything more would be a spoiler. However, the setup of a woman being stalked has a rather prosaic and anticlimactic ending. Again, no spoilers. However, this again takes away from the seriousness of the topic. This "thriller" leaves the thrills by the way side and ends up more like 300 pages of teenage angst.

The chapters are short, and nothing much really happens to develop the characters or the depth of the story. Overall, the book is a very quick read. A missed opportunity to showcase a very real and very serious hazard of living life online.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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