Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Title:The Bright Side of Going Dark
Author: Kelly Harms
Genre: Literary, Contemporary, New Adult
Release date: May 12th, 2020
Suicide, panic attacks, mental illness, depression, fat-phobia, death.
| Add to Goodreads |
As one of the most popular influencers on social media, Mia Bell has lived her life online for years. With her celebrity dog and gorgeous fiancé, she is planning the ultimate virtual wedding—expensive, elaborate, and entirely paid for by sponsors. But off-camera, her world is far from picture perfect. After being jilted by her fiancé and faking her nuptials to please her sponsors, Mia finally has had enough. She heaves her phone off a cliff, ready to live—and maybe find love—offline for a change.
Mia’s sudden absence doesn’t go unnoticed, especially by techie loner Paige Miller, who hacks Mia’s account and begins impersonating the internet celebrity. Paige has her reasons. Her half sister, Jessica, idolizes Mia and desperately needs something to believe in. If taking over Mia’s online persona is Paige’s only means of connecting to her sister, so be it.
Creating a like-worthy life is more fun than Paige expected. But when she grows too bold and is caught in the act, a fiasco ensues that could forever change Mia, Paige, and the people who love them. Because somewhere amid the chaos is an invaluable lesson—one that only real life can teach.
The Bright Side of Going Dark questions our dependence and pervading feeling of entitlement towards influencers’ lives whilst also tackling themes of mental health, family relationships and grief. Though the novel successfully opens up discussions regarding these topics, it struggles to showcase subtle characterizations and leans towards exaggerated traits to portray the difference of opinion.
Surprisingly, the novel was more character driven than I’d imagined and the plot described in the blurb doesn’t really start until you are almost halfway in, when Paige finally takes over Mia’s account. The author took her time to introduce the main characters, which I appreciated.
On one hand we have Mia as one of the narrators, a grief-stricken influencer addicted to technology who posts mainly on Pictey—an Instagram inspired social media app (which I’m guessing was used instead of Instagram to avoid any problems with the company). I ended up enjoying her story and narration the most because she was so much more open to growth. Also, her love for her dog was adorable and touching. However, I couldn’t stand her snarky remarks about weight or how she wanted to ‘fix’ a child just because she wore a more juvenile style of clothing or because she was not the picture perfect child you might find in an advert according to her.
On the other hand we have Paige, a Pictey’s IT worker obsessed with her job, which consists of flagging and limiting inappropriate content on the app, and who has struggled with depression and panic attacks for a big part of her life ever since she tried to comit suicide. Paige was hard to connect with, as she was often rude or insensitive towards others and even to herself. She was very close minded and I feel like she got the short straw of character development. Instead, her sister Jessica shined through and I loved whenever she was in a scene.
As I don’t always need to like the characters, what I enjoyed in this book was their relatable struggles and how complex they were. They both had strained relationships with their mothers, who represented the most extreme conservative views in each topic almost to a comical effect: Mia’s mother being so anti-technology she gave away her smartphone as charity and Paige’s mother lying about the mental health issues of her daughters and dismissing them entirely with a flippant attitude. I would have appreciated more if these views were downplayed and not so on the nose.
As for the themes themselves, I think that by having such strong views ingrained in each character, the discussions within the pages drew out a little. Nevertheless, it showed new perspectives that I hadn’t considered regarding the following of influencers and it gave room for honest conversations about mental health and how hard it can be to deal with an illness if you don’t have a proper support system. I would also like to highlight that the novel was not anti-medication, which is refreshing to see after many books and films decide to paint a negative picture on psychopharmacology despite being the right—and sometimes only—line of treatment for many people.
Overall, it was an enjoyable book that made me reconsider my views on important topics, especially how I interact with social media and technology and, despite handling hard subjects, it included light hearted moments that made it very easy to read.