Book Review | Followers by Megan Angelo

Angelo covers a lot of ground in her impressive debut novel: the commodification of the self, the limits of privacy, our obsessive voyeurism, the twisted bonds between us, and a dystopian collapse – and rebuild – of everything we took for granted.

In 2015, Orla is an aspiring novelist, new to New York and making ends meet through writing clickbait for magazine Ladyish. Her new roommate, Floss, is an aspiring celebrity, ruthlessly driven in her pursuit of ‘success’. The two soon come to realise that they can combine their strengths to curate Floss’s online persona and catapult her into the influencer stratosphere – and with it, build the network and connections Orla needs to get her novel in front of an agent.

“Here’s the one where you listed what was in that salad the paparazzi always snapped her eating,” Floss murmured. “I liked that.”
“It was the best traffic anything on her ever did,” Orla said. “Even better than when I wrote she died.”

In the 2050s, Marlowe lives in a gated California community, Constellation, where she is watched constantly in a Truman-show-meets-the-Kardashians dystopian world, medicated with the drug Hysteryl, for which she is the designated poster girl. In Constellation, the residents are government-appointed celebrities, watched by an ‘army of voyeurs’ in a carefully-constructed, meticulously-plotted existence.

‘She had seen gentle green hills loping along the back of the town, jutting up into pale coral sunsets that were always on time and spectacular. But the sunsets, she later learned, were staged—lit, from below, by colossal rose-colored lamps in the ground, because the network liked continuity and could not rely on the weather.’

These two narratives, present and future, steadily work their way towards each other as the novel progresses, in a clever structure that drip-feeds the reader clues over time. Whilst the Constellation plot line was an intriguing study in our current culture taken to the extreme, I found Orla and Floss’s present-day conspiracy to celebrity pacier and more compelling, as Floss ascends to the ranks of stardom and lands her own reality TV show – in a series of events that would seem absurd if we didn’t know that it’s been done before.

‘Floss’s identity had become a thing they shared respectfully, like the skim milk in the fridge.’

There are flaws in this otherwise sharp, darkly funny and cleverly plotted novel – some plot points are under-explored, there are things that happen when Marlowe arrives in New York that seem all too convenient, and the ending – although a neat resolution – felt a bit of a tone mismatch with the rest of the book. That said, this novel throws a spotlight on the way we live our lives – both off and online – and the way narratives are shaped and reshaped, blurring the barriers between fiction and reality. Twisted, timely and compelling reading.

‘There aren’t actually heroes or victims or villains. Not in our story, and probably not in anyone else’s. I know you know this deep down: it’s all in the edit.’

****

8 thoughts on “Book Review | Followers by Megan Angelo

  1. This is on my radar and I’m not sure if I’d be picking it up, but your review made it sound more compelling. I find that the best dystopian fiction are those that don’t seem so far-fetched from what we’re experiencing now, and this definitely seems like it. Great review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! The cover doesn’t really do it justice, when I first picked it up I thought it might be a bit hackneyed but it exceeded my expectations & ended up being an intelligent & entertaining read. It is actually an interesting accompaniment to Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror essay collection that I read a few weeks ago & found very insightful on the crafting of our identities in the modern world.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This novel seems quite topical and relevant. I wonder whether we will go to further extremes in the future, when it comes to voyeurism, pretence and lack of privacy or if it will turn around at some point. Sounds like an interesting read which will make you think as well. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! It is very thought-provoking whilst also being sharp and witty (e.g. you don’t feel like it’s ‘moralising’) There’s also a major event that happens between 2015 and 2050 in the novel that completely changes the way the internet and social media works – it’s very interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

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