THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS
Let me begin by saying how much I loved the title of this book!!! Total points to the genius who came up with it. “People like her” can be loved, be so popular so as to have a very dedicated following. At the same time, they are often looked down upon, loathed, even fixated upon. “People can also like her” so much to follow her every single advice to the end of the earth. But “People like her”, the ones who do make it big on the social media world are also most targeted by trolls and sociopaths. Because, “People like her” share so much more of their personal life, they know what it means to tread that fine line between becoming overwhelmed by your own success and knowing exactly what to share to make it work to get to the top.
In this book, we meet Emmy an Instagram Moghul. She has several millions following her on a daily basis. She is at the moment on social media trying to expand to the world of live tele. Dan her husband is one time hot star writer. At the beginning of the book, he is struggling with what to write next. We see them both as caregivers for their 2 kids. How they juggle their respective jobs while trying to be the best parent they can. We are also given a third POV, whose mystery is unraveled slowly up until the end of the book. What is it that Emmy has done that has caused this person to even think of harming Emmy’s children is something that the reader questions along with the POV.
The Insta mum Emmy is the best fleshed out character other than Irene, the agent, whom you will like no matter what. This might also be the case because one of the writer duo has similar background. It’s a social commentary on how vain and selfish the social media world is. but they also show both the positives and the negatives of just a choice. And I really appreciated how they dealt with this aspect. The influencers have to choose what and how much they want to share with the world. When we see those million freebies Emmy gets from the companies who want to work with her, we also see the too explicit messages she gets on a daily basis and how she deals with them constantly. We meet another upcoming Instagrammer Summer, who is having a lot of trouble maintaining her day to day existence with not working a fulltime paying job. I believe she says at one point in the book,
“I just don’t know what I am going to do…I haven’t really earned anything from influencing since I quit my job to go full time and I’m already in so much debt I can’t even look at my credit card bills. Everyone says it was easy, all this…I mean, I get sent stuff…you can’t eat free clothes, or pay rent with them. And the holidays and the turmeric lattes and smoothie bowls for brunch with other girls, and the giant bunches of flowers for props, the hair and the beauty stuff, and you have to look different in every picture…”
I felt that the book could be easily split into two parts a contemporary and a thriller. The two parts had very different authorial voice. The contemporary part of the book that dealt with the social media world was slow, unhurried, building up Dan and Emmy through each other’s narrative and through Irene and Summer. Their family backgrounds played as a tool defining who they started out as and who they have become. The character studies of both the principals was very interesting and unique. I haven’t read a book about any Instagram Mom presented in the way the writer duo presented Emmy.
My problem lay essentially with the pacing of book. The thriller aspect of the book was suddenly foisted onto the reader without any buildup. I personally felt more intrigued with just a modern look at marriage with an unconventional professional parents working in parallel with co-parenting. Neither of them a Guru of parenting in the first place. It was beautiful and flawless. But the characters needed more time to brew in the mess that they would create.
The third POV was so rushed and sparingly interspersed within the narration of the two others that you could not connect with her at all. She had a problem with Emmy relating to a tragedy that happened in her family but she constantly tries to justify Emmy at the same time. And in the breath she also says, “I could throw this child(Coco) off the escalator and it won’t bother me”. The explanation about her behavior being Kierkegardian in one line made her neither menacing nor mentally unsound. At the end after the final reveal, all she managed to do was create a feeling of “what this really necessary?”
I also had a problem with the authorial voice in the book. The book is from both Emmy and Dan’s POV. Keeping in mind there are two writers one would assume the two characters would have unique style in terms of development and a unique voice. But sometimes when the authorial voice switched between Dan and Emmy as a reader, had I not known to whom the chapter belonged I would not have figured out whose inner monologue it was. Especially the epilogue where it took some time for me to figure out it was Emmy and not Dan.
You couldn’t figure out which character was being used by the writer duo to voice their opinions. All three POVs got the special treatment. This for me caused a narrative imbalance. Initially I felt that there was no reliable narrator in this book which would have been amazing. But then often Dan or Emmy or Jill (least all of them) have moments of epiphany on their circumstances or the others and the reader is left confused who not to fact check.
Dan and Emmy’s relationship is confusing in parts. In an attempt to create a complicated relationship between them and yet trying to be that modern couple who is okay to a lot of vagaries of modern day marriage, they got tangled in what is not being stated as obvious. Dan’s jealousy at meeting his editor causes no tensions at home. Emmy has no idea that such a thing irked Dan. Or Emmy placating Dan when he lost Coco as something she has to do to calm him down not getting pissed about loosing Coco in the first place. Or even the fact that Emmy had maybe 3 abortions before she had Coco, seemed to miss the mark just because the couple don’t do much in terms of reflecting upon these moments of crisis. The events take place or are relayed exactly as is but are not shown as an ongoing simmering resentment between the two. Then where is the tension coming from, one wonders?
I was very intrigued by the husband wife when the book started. They seemed to contradict each other on their versions of truth. Dan even mentions that Emmy has a way of recreating events the way it suits. Yet he goes along with all Emmy’s plans for her social media empire without raising an eyebrow.
We see him a bit tired of hassles of the being an Instagrammer Mom but as the book progresses we don’t see him coming up with any any alternatives either. It constantly feels like he would be okay if Emmy were to play second fiddle in their marriage? Since it wasn’t him at the moment, it was not really working out. We do get to see him at the end when he is back in the limelight and is now absolutely okay with parading his 2 kids and a very pregnant wife for his book event. So, that makes them perfect for each other right?
I liked the complicated version of marriage so much more. Dan never finds out about the abortions. Emmy never realizes his discontent. The darknet, the robbery, the #rp account, the online stalker kid, addiction to social media, marriage which balances itself on a very awkward harmony was enough.
I just wish the book was all about Dan and Emmy’s skewed moral compass. The fact that she worked Polly’s email to her advantage was perfect. They needed more time to marinate in the levels they could stoop to without batting an eyelash! At the end when Dan embraces ‘the little tiny squares” as they call it with panache, their ruthless hypocrisy is best served cold. It makes for an amazing drama that I would root for any day! Was Emmy as an Influencer to be blamed for what happened? Possibly yes, but also maybe no! That ambiguity in the mind of the reader would have been better than any cliffhanger.
So I was not rooting for the way the book turned. Two- thirds of the book lulled you into thinking what bad can really happen to this woman except taking her empire down? They hint at that too; about the other influencer who was wiped out in a matter of a day after some of her rant content went viral. Again, this would have made for a great drama too, with Dan just picking up and moving along like he did. Was Emmy’s mistake that big on the scale of wrong doings to lead to her innocent 8 week baby being left to fend for himself. That too by a nurse?
I had a very difficult time coming to terms with the final reveal. Especially because I did co sleep with my kid and there were just so many things wrong with the way the event was described. I felt like while the writers talked so much about big of a sham everything is including non judgemental mothering, they put the entire blame on one kind of mothering too. I would just like to say the summary of book was better than the reveal.
Writer Duo: Ellery Lloyd
Ellery Lloyd is the writing pseudonym for Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos.
Collette Lyons is a journalist and editor, the former content director of Elle (UK) and editorial director at Soho House. She has written for The Guardian, The Telegraph, and the Sunday Times.
Paul Vlitos is the author of two previous novels, Welcome to the Working Week and Every Day is Like Sunday. He is the program director for English Literature with Creative Writing at the University of Surrey.
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