Rating: 2.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

What would you do for a few more followers? What would you do for a million followers? Nathan, whose goals of being a social media star are limited by his single-digit follower count, is willing to do anything, and when a lucky break gets his numbers rising, he wants nothing more than to capitalize on it. An accidental live stream of himself throwing up catches the school’s attention, and it just keeps going. Soon, Nate has his own hashtag — one even the teachers are using — and Nate’s riding high, until his account is hijacked and suddenly everyone’s against him.

Nate’s account tells kids to kill themselves, and creates violent challenges that end up leading to Nate’s own brother being attacked and kidnapped. The scary thing is that the most likely suspect is Oliver, Nate’s best friend and maybe-sort-of crush/boyfriend? But Oliver isn’t talking to him and even if he did, Nate doesn’t know what he wants to say.

This is a book that requires a giant suspension of disbelief — so much so that it enters more into fantasy than fiction. Nate’s single viral video of two girls fighting takes his channel into the millions; his video of himself eating a fast food sandwich (and then throwing it up) has the entire school trying to make a new sandwich creation. When Oliver takes a stitch of Nate’s video to start a challenge of his own, the insomnia challenge, it’s so catchy that almost the entire school is suddenly absent because everyone stayed up for a single night, and the very next night has someone so sleep deprived they crash their car. Then there’s the stalking and harassment, the ‘cult’ of followers who go after Nate, the dozens of other channels dissecting Nate’s handful of videos, a much larger and more famous channel being threatened by Nate’s three videos … it all just felt so over the top.

My biggest issue isn’t the silliness or the wish fulfillment of a lonely, unpopular kid suddenly making it big, it’s the fact that this book doesn’t seem to have a point to any of this happening. Because Nate is just a kid watching events happen, never really taking part in them, never learning from them, never facing consequences, because none of it is his fault. His account was hacked, so it’s not like Nate did anything; Oliver’s the one who dined and dashed, so it’s not Nate’s fault they’re in jail. It’s never anything Nate does, and thus he has to do nothing to either keep it going or stop it. This is very much a book where the plot does all the work, so the character can lie back and just exist.

When Oliver uses Nate’s sexuality against him, going in for a kiss to distract Nate from questioning more about the stolen account, it’s so transparent … but Nate lets it go. It’s not that he’s attracted to Oliver, or even likes him. It’s just that it’s his first kiss and Nate doesn’t seem to care enough to say yes or no, just lets fate happen. When Oliver betrays him, uses him, manipulates him, Nate doesn’t even have a reaction.

Nate is awkward and introverted, with an uncaring narcissism. No one matters but Nate, no one has emotions but Nate. He’s a terrible friend, but so is Oliver. The one thing Nate has going for him, the one bright point in this book, is his unquestioning love for his family. Oliver’s mom was a model and is now a photographer; his younger brother, Sam is in track. When Nate interacts with them, it’s with fondness. When he thinks about his mother, it’s with love and support. And when Nate’s hurting and lonely, it’s his mother he turns to; when he thinks his brother is hurt, he actually does something for the first time and tries to find out who hurt Sam. Unfortunately, those moments aren’t the focus of the book. Not that I can tell what the focus is.

It’s a story with no real plot and seems to have nothing much to say. Is social media bad? Maybe? Is peer pressure bad? Maybe? Does Nate have an opinion? … no? I’m sorry, but this is a solid pass. There’s just not enough here to hold my interest and Nate’s passivity and hollowness doesn’t make up for the confusion. The writing isn’t terrible, the character’s voice is strong, and the moments between Nate and his family do shine; I’d be interested to see what else this author writes, but this book just isn’t it for me.