Review: Viral by Helen FitzGerald

Friday 26 February 2016
Title: Viral
Author: Helen FitzGerald
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: 4th February 2016
Pages: 272
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 2/5
Purchase: Amazon
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?

I don't know what I was expecting the first line of Viral to be, but judging from the reactions of most other readers I expected it to be a lot more shocking than it actually was. The book opens with one of our main characters, Su, telling the reader about how a sex act she performed in a Magaluf club has now gone viral, as a video has been uploaded to the internet for the world to see. The reader learns that Su was adopted after being abandoned as a baby, is from a fairly well-to-do family with her mother being a successful court judge and we soon establish that something like this is far beyond what everybody would expect from the studious and normally well-behaved Su.

After the real-life events of a situation similar to this I had an idea in my head of the type of character that Helen FitzGerald might create for the story. I was absolutely incorrect and because of that, had not a single idea of what to expect from the story, nor of where it would eventually go. Su's adoptive sister is Leah and is basically the complete opposite of the kind of girl Su is. Their relationship is intriguing and complicated, and is one of the more interesting parts of the story with the developments that occur as the story progresses. At the heart of the story is family, not only in how they cope with something like this happening but Su's real-life family once she embarks on a search for her birth mother. I remember the comments around the time of the real-life Magaluf event, the girl in the video had her name published online and everybody said her life was over forever and that's certainly how things look for Su when the book begins. The whole 'digital footprint' thing is quite scary when you think an employer only has to put your name into Google and if you've done something even remotely out of line, they'll find it. How does one even start to come back from something like this?

Having been on holiday to a place not dissimilar to Magaluf I found myself imagining something like this happening in a club where I was. How would one react? I certainly couldn't imagine myself whipping my own c**k out for some random person to suck on, and for thousands of people to then go and witness. And at the same time, would you intervene? It's impossible to know how you would react in that situation. Viral took me a long time to get into, and an even longer time to actually care about the characters I was reading about. I don't know what it was. Did I pick the book up at the wrong time? Did I just completely fail to connect with the characters? I can't quite single out any one thing but after the glowing reviews from some of my favourite bloggers I just read this book with no enthusiasm whatsoever and was left quite disappointed by the whole thing.

Viral is an emotive piece in places, and it was probably the ramifications for those involved, and the quest for justice of Su's relentless and unforgiving mother Ruth that kept me reading most of the time. I was probably expecting it to be a darker read than what it was, and having never read anything from Helen FitzGerald before, I knew nothing of her writing style and, I'm sorry to admit, found myself imagining this book in the hands of a different author, perhaps with a more psychological thriller kind of spin on things. There are some moments in the book that are a bit out there, but it was just missing something for me and is more comical in places than believable. It is however one of those books that would spark a lively debate amongst any book club, and others have mentioned how this book should serve as a warning to others of how to behave when on a clubbing holiday but I can't imagine these kinds of clubs and the things that go on in them ever going away, and certainly can't imagine the people that frequent them being big readers! Overall I was bored reading Viral more than I was gripped, and whilst I can understand why others have enjoyed it, I'm just not one of them.

1 comment:

  1. love your reviews but dont always comment :) i have this to read sounds fab


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