This satire, thriller, quasi-dystopian story tells the tale of two women, Orla and Floss, who become friends through a mutual desire for fame. Starting in the 20-teens, Orla is a writer, slaving away at a pop culture news site and waiting for her big break. Floss is a Kardashian wannabe: she wants to be an influencer, she wants followers, she wants insta-fame. She and Orla, her roommate, hatch a plan where Orla creates the Floss persona, and it works, to dizzying success. The story shifts between 2015-2016 and 2041, where society lives in the aftermath of an event that leaves those of us glued to our screens shadows of our former selves. Reality stars are moved to a government-run, enclosed village where they live their whole lives on camera, with implants that buzz to let them know when they’ve gained or lost followers, or if they’ve been off screen too long. Here, we meet Marlow, a 30-something who lives in the village, and dreams of a life off-screen. Discovering a long-held family secret gives her the courage to go on the run, where she heads to New York to get answers.
Followers is a realistic sci-fi thriller that posits an entirely plausible future. Social media-obsessed characters and a screen-consumed society are instantly recognizable – it does take place in 2016, after all – and the tempting mystery that unfolds through two timelines is fascinating and kept me turning pages, wanting to know what happens next. It’s a good book to handsell/booktalk to teens, and let them work through the story by asking them what they think future social media and reality stars will look like. Put this on your “this could be our future” shelf with Vox by Christina Dalcher (another YA/Adult crossover), and Caragh O’Brien’s Vault of Dreamers trilogy.
Followers has four starred reviews, and author Megan Angelo has a free, downloadable book club kit available on her website (minus the cotton candy champagne recipe – mix some cotton candy with sparkling water for a similar treat).