Our named narrator lives two lives. In one, she is an adored blogger and social media star – her favourite activities include doom scrolling, bitching and yelling, 'HA! Capitalism,' at issues left, right and centre just because. The other side of that is her journey as a daughter, a sister and a wife – away from social media she must deal with the tragedy of real life. Working through grief, pain and loss, she must find a way to forge her worlds so that they come out together on the other side.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Content warnings: child death, terminal illness, ableism
Perfect when you’re in the mood for: when you want to scroll on twitter but tell people you were actually reading a book to seem smart
What do you mean you’ve been spying on me, with this thing in my hand that is an eye?
You’re either going to love or hate this book (and the Goodreads review section supports this notion), but it certainly delivers in terms of demonstrating the frustratingly weird and wonderful culture of the internet. Lockwood also exposes and highlights the toll participating in such a life can take on your emotional and mental health – how being logged into your social media accounts may have you logged out of your real ‘physical’ life.
The book is distinctly split into two sections. The first reads like a twitter timeline in which sentences are fragmented and surround meme culture and whether you’re a ‘dog or cat’ person. It’s almost like mud to shovel through, and if you don’t understand internet subculture and niche humour then it will be even harder to get through. However, it flows into a more conventionally traditional-style text in the second half where we explore the real life of our narrator. This was excellently done and certainly a testament to Lockwood’s ability to craft a narrative.
Lockwood knows that she’s talking about – this is a story about the internet written by someone who actually uses the internet. This means that, while exploring these themes, it doesn’t feel like you’re being spoken to by someone who doesn’t get it. There is some fantastic identification of internet conspiracies, issues and faults, which the author exposes in the first half and then dissects in the second. It is brilliantly done.
Lockwood took a chance, and, as I said before, you might hate that – you certainly wouldn’t be alone if you did. The twitter-style mixed with the stream-of-consciousness structure Lockwood employs makes for a fascinating read; however, it also goes for 70 pages. After that, we enter the second half of the story. I found that between pages 1–20 it was a pleasure to read, full of new, fresh and exciting frameworks that were often funny. The next 50 pages dragged and dragged and dragged, with the occasional insightful comment or joke, which provided much-needed relief. In saying this, I believe it is written like that on purpose.
Lockwood is a masterful writer, and this text offers fantastic insight into the possible future of literature as we continue to shape, and be shaped, by the new digital world. While she continues to experiment with format, she has successfully embedded the internet-meme world into a book, which I haven’t seen done so well elsewhere. On one page, we have the decontextualised insight:
A picture of a new species of tree frog that had recently been discovered. Scientists speculated that the reason it had never before been seen was because “It is covered with warts and it wants to be left alone” / me / me / unbelievably me / it me
And, only one page later, Lockwood turns to discussing the impending climate crisis and calls out a few common misconceptions – all of which end with ‘lol’.
We are effectively only exposed to an intimate family of characters throughout the entire book, and, funnily enough, I seemingly got to know each of them well. This is particularly true in the case of the narrator, as we do go through her world in both the digital and then the real – we are offered great insight into the sub-cultures she is a part of as well as her inner communities and thoughts. Lockwood’s experimentation with genre and style has meant that I could pick up on small, and slightly hidden, glimpses of the type of person the narrator is thanks to the exposure of her internet search history. We do get to see the relationship develop between her and her sister, who the second half of the novel surrounds. The husband of the narrator, on the other hand, kind of fell off early in the book and just came around at the end (?), which was super strange and honestly made me a bit concerned for the character (the whole time I was just waiting for them to get a divorce, which ultimately never came, so good for her I guess). It would have been great to see more into the lives of the support system this insta-famous gal has.
The story had some diverse characters scattered throughout; however, I don’t think Lockwood considered this part of the ‘internet world’ – the book is incredibly white in the way you would imagine any middle-aged-white-woman-who-has-now-found-Instagram is, and because the story in the second half is so limited to the inner family dynamic, we don’t get to see too much diversity.
This book is frustrating, but it’s so clever and does what it says on the tin. I would like to come back to this book in ten years and see how many of the twitter jokes I still get and how many I don’t. If you don’t understand the internet, then this won’t help you with that. If you feel that you’ve got an obsession over it, then this book will probably call you out.