“So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety six people have seen me online.” // Review of Viral by Helen Fitzgerald #aww2016

Title: Viral
Author: Helen Fitzgerald
Audio book narrator: Ellie Griffiths, Vivien Heilbron
Genre: Thriller
Date Read: 22/05/2016 – 24/05/2016
Rating: ★★★
viralcoverThis is a book that will definitely get you thinking about issues of consent, online bullying and the woefully inadequate laws we have to deal with it. However, I have to admit that the writing let me down a bit.

The book opens with Su-Jin Oliphant-Brotheridge, South Korean by birth but adopted as a baby by Scottish parents, dealing with the aftermath of a very humiliating video of her being posted online. Chapters alternate between Su trying to remember the events of that night, and her Sheriff (that’s Scottish Sheriff, not American) mother trying to find a way to punish those who have humiliated not only Su but the entire family.

Su has always been the sensible, practical one, while her sister Leah has been wilder. This has meant that in their teen years they have started to drift apart, but Su has always hoped they could regain the closeness they had when they were young. The disparities between these two characters were really well-drawn, and I really enjoyed seeing Su learn to come out from under Leah’s shadow and their eventual reconciliation.

Unfortunately, I felt that the chapters from their mother, Ruth’s, POV let the story down a bit. When informed that technically, the video breaks no crimes, Ruth sets about seeking her own justice for her daughter and her family. While I know that many middle-aged people are not so tech-savvy, I would have thought that someone in Ruth’s position in life would have had at least a working knowledge of how videos might end up going viral, and how social media works. This was not the case, and it didn’t endear me to her character, because she just ended up coming across as really naive. Her chapters also alternated between past and present tense, and I kept getting the timeline confused, which didn’t help.

I actually thought that the book may have ended up with a rather unsavoury ending, but fortunately, this was not the case (the unsavoury-ness may have still happened after the end of the book, but it’s never mentioned). I actually really liked the way it ended and that was enough to bump it up from 2.5 to 3 stars for me. Overall, this is definitely a thought-provoking book, but one that falls a little flat in the execution.

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(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016. Click here for more information).


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