By Helen Fitzgerald
Published by Faber & Faber (4 February 2016)
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 has a brilliant first line - one of the best I have read, and it certainly enticed me into reading more. But the book is far more than just about that one line. It tackles some highly topical and moral issues and really makes you think about modern society and the impact of social media.
What happens if a video of you goes viral? What if the whole world is talking about you - and everyone knows what you look like and what you've done? What effect will this have on your family? What effect will it have on you? And how will you cope with the aftermath?
Viral explores all these issues and more, with plenty of underlying dark humour.
Su runs away from her adoptive family after a video of her goes viral. The events in the video are completely out of character. And, being adopted and having no information about her birth mother, Su wonders whether this is her true nature after all. This leads Su on a journey of self-discovery to South Korea to find out where she came from and where she belongs.
Meanwhile, Ruth, her adoptive mother, struggles to cope with what Su has done and the role of Leah, Su's adoptive sister. Ruth is determined that the men who took advantage of Su are brought to justice - whatever it takes (and whatever that means). I'm not sure how realistic some of Ruth's actions were, but it certainly made a fantastic story.
Viral moves at a fast pace and kept me intrigued all the way through. It's written to shock the reader - and it certainly does so. Don't read this if you're looking for something comfortable and easy! This is a book that will make a parent think twice before allowing their teenagers to go on holiday with friends.
I received an Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.