Published February 2016
Faber & Faber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“What if the worst thing you did went viral?”
What a question! I don’t want anything I do to go viral.
Heck I don’t even know where to start with my review. This was one helluva book!!
From the first sentence I was shocked and pulled into this story. I won’t tell you what the first sentence was but if you’ve read the entire book description you probably have an idea.
Actually both the very first sentence and the very last sentence of this book are shocking – but in very different ways.
There are also some situations that may trigger some very emotional responses. At times this was a dark and often disturbing read. However, the author also has an excellent sense of humor that somehow makes you able to get through the book without becoming completely depressed. Honestly I would be horrified one moment and laughing out loud the next. I felt it was the perfect mix of mystery, suspense and humor.
At the beginning of the book so far 23,096 people have seen Su Jin (or just Su) online performing a sexual act in a nightclub. These people include her mother, her father, her little sister, her grandparents, her boss, her teachers, her boyfriend and thousands more. The numbers are rising very quickly as she watches the video over and over.
Su and her sister and two friends are on holiday to Magaluf to celebrate their A-levels. Only Leah returns home. Her sister Su remains behind. She doesn’t want to go home until some other video has gone viral, when another “fresh sorry soul” has replaced her on the first page.
Su was adopted as a baby after being left on the doorstep in Seoul. Attached to the basket was a note from her birth mother in Korean that said “She is Su-Jin. I am 17, please look after her.” Ruth Oliphant and Bernard Brotheridge adopted her after years of trying to conceive their own child. One month after they brought Su-Jin home, Ruth discovered she was pregnant.
Very close in age Leah and Su got along very well when they were young. However, once puberty hit Leah had no use for Su and treated her quite terribly. Su tried to remain hopeful that they would one day be as close as they once were.
“I am prudish, virginal Su. I’m the one who usually stays at home to study or, if I do go all out the one who distributes water and buys the chips and calls the taxi. I don’t feel the need to swear, and I don’t like it when others do, unless it is the only accurate way to convey the information”.
Su is an excellent student and has wanted to be a doctor since the age of three. After working hard she’s accepted to the best medical school in the country, Edinburgh university. Leah is the wild child. She gets drunk often, does drugs, swears constantly, and isn’t picky about who she spends time with.
The girl’s mother Ruth Oliphant- Brotheridge is a very successful court judge. Happily married to a wonderful man and father Bernard. Ruth often finds it easier to relate to her adoptive daughter than her biological daughter.
When Leah comes home without her sister her mother is extremely angry at her for many reasons. Most of all that she was not looking out for Su. Naturally Ruth is very worried about Su and wants her to come home.
However her anger at the people who took advantage of her daughter continues to grow, threatening to overtake her. She wants to bring justice to all those involved.
We’ve all watched those viral videos. I prefer to stick to the cute, funny and heartwarming ones. People have become famous because of ONE video going viral. However, it’s not always a good thing.
The one moment in your life that is so horrifying that you don’t even want to think about? Imagine that moment played out for everyone to see. Where everywhere you go you wonder who saw it. The guy at the grocery store? Your co-workers? Your friends? Virtually anyone. One event can change everything in a person’s life. Even if everything is going perfect something can happen and boom! Everything you’ve known is completely different and you’re suddenly someone else altogether.
This is a dark and gripping story that I read in just two sittings. I found the story easy to follow and found the characters to be well-developed. I could feel the love and sometimes the hate between the characters, the fierceness of Ruth wanting to protect and get justice for her daughter really resonated with me. I can’t even imagine myself as a mother in this situation.
I thought I knew how the book was going to end but I ended up being surprised and I am quite happy with how it all came together.
I have read one of this author’s other books “The Cry” and really enjoyed it. I am certainly looking forward to more from Helen Fitzgerald.