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.
When Leah Oliphant-Brotheridge and her adopted sister Su go on holiday together to Magaluf to celebrate their A-levels, only Leah returns home. Her successful, swotty sister remains abroad, humiliated and afraid: there is an online video of her, drunkenly performing a sex act in a nightclub. And everyone has seen it.
Ruth Oliphant-Brotheridge, mother of the girls, successful court judge, is furious. How could this have happened? How can she bring justice to these men who took advantage of her dutiful, virginal daughter? What role has Leah played in all this? And can Ruth find Su and bring her back home when Su doesn’t want to be found?
Viral’s opening is pretty shocking and pulls no punches. In a way, it feels ripped from the headlines (and possibly was?), with the story of a young woman getting caught on camera doing things that she normally wouldn’t. However, on a girls holiday in Magaluf and fuelled by drinks and drugs, her defences were down and – as we all know nowadays – it doesn’t take long for someone to get out a phone and start recording. And, once it was on the intranet, there is no going back.
This book just reminded me of everything I hate about the internet (which sometimes seems to overwhelm the good in it). It shows people to be shallow, selfish and mean and just how little recourse there is for people who are it’s victims. That’s certainly the case for Su and her family, all of whom feel the impact and all of whom come under the spotlight.
That one moment in time might be remembered forever and impact on everything you do (or can do) for the rest of your life is scary and Helen Fitzgerald makes that loud and clear and has made me think twice about everything I do online. I absolutely felt for Su and her family as their lives spiralled as a result. After my shock, I started to feel despair. Would any of them every be the same again?
Then there is light at the end of the tunnel (which won’t be shared for spoilers) and that made me happy. Life, it seems, does go on and from adversity we often appear stronger and wiser. It all brought the story full circle. I do have to wonder if in real life there would have been such a happy ending (there are a few plot leaps that make this happen and they don’t seem that based in reality but, hey, this is fiction) and that wonder has put a slight shadow over the book, but only a bit.
After my last outing with Helen Fitzgerald (The Exit), which didn’t go very well for me, this has restored my faith in an author who, for me, comes up with different storylines and strong, interesting characters. This book was short (272 pages) and perfectly formed. I really enjoyed it and think it’s a must read.