Well this is one opener that can’t be ignored:
So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety-six people have seen me online. They include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth year Biology teacher and my boyfriend James.
What they have seen is a video of Su Oliphant-Brotheridge on holiday in Magaluf with her sister Leah. Let’s be coy and just say that the uploaded video isn’t something that any of the people listed above would want to see which just goes to illustrate that Helen FitzGerald isn’t one to dodge difficult subjects. But really the video is a launch pad for an exploration of far more than intoxication and seedy holiday destinations!
Even, or especially because of that opener, this may not be the story that you expect although it does of course touch on the infamy on a world-wide stage that the internet has opened up, especially to the younger members of society who used to be able to hide (and forget about?) their youthful transgressions with relative ease. But this book isn’t just about the evils of the internet…
Su was adopted by Ruth and Bernie from South Korea where she lived with them in Scotland where by the time the story opens Ruth is a judge and Bernie is a music teacher, this book is also an exploration of the relationship between Su and her adoptive family. The anguish her family feel when she disappears following the upload of the video is palpable and the different way they react is so authentic, which underlines the prowess of this author to not only come up with a provocative and up-to-the-minute plot but also create characters that you don’t doubt for a minute. A textbook way to encourage the reader to become immersed in the storyline.
As well as the fascinating multiple threads in the storyline which concentrates as much on the interplay of relationships in a family, as it does on the rights and wrongs of the act and the people involved in sending it viral, the author also managed to sway my opinion, probably not so much on the wider aspects of the internet, but definitely on the ‘goodness’ or otherwise of many of the characters. Best of all this is served up with more than a sprinkle of humour, the book had me giving fairly regular wry smiles which far from breaking the tension, accurately mirrored the underlying fears of those concerned. It is a pleasure to read books about teenagers that accurately recognise that they are not a different species, the world may be a different place, the nature of inter-generational relationships has shifted but underneath all of that, they are just trying to work their way through the complexity that is growing up.
I want to say a big thank you to Helen FitzGerald for writing another fascinating and highly insightful book that should be enjoyed across the generations as well as to Faber and Faber for allowing me to read a review copy. Viral was published on 4 February 2016.
Helen FitzGerald is fast becoming one of my favourite writers with her excellent execution of varied and compelling storylines.
Other Brilliant Books by Helen FitzGerald
When a baby goes missing on a lonely roadside in Australia, it sets off a police investigation that will become a media sensation and dinner-table talk across the world.
82 year old Rose, is convinced that something sinister is going on in Room 7 and that her own life is under threat. But Rose has dementia – so what does she actually know, and who would believe her anyway? As Catherine starts investigating Rose’s allegations, terrible revelations surface about everyone involved. Can Catherine find out what’s really going on?