By Hayley Phelan
Published July 2021 (Kindle edition)
I picked this up as my February Prime Read – I mean, who doesn’t love a good psychological thriller? The premise sounded interesting, even though I don’t read a lot of New Adult fiction.
Here’s the blurb: Mickey Jones (her professional name) came close to fame as a model, but didn’t quite make it. At 19, she’s broke, has a serious drinking and drug problem, and has no idea how to break out of the hole she’s in. She knows if she could be like Gemma Anton, an influencer/model with the perfect life who happens to resemble Mickey, then she’d be discovered. So when Mickey’s not agonizing over her own lack of followers and likes on Instagram, she stalks Gemma’s profile, obsessing over every detail of the girl’s life. When she unexpectedly runs into Gemma at a club, her obsession turns to full blown delusion that they’re friends.
A chance encounter leads to a photo shoot with Gemma’s boyfriend and suddenly Mickey has everything she’s ever wanted – money, over 100,000 followers, and more likes than she ever imagined. But fame is an illusion and Mickey is ill-equipped to handle it when the lines between her social persona and her real life blur.
For me, a psychological thriller is made or broken by an unreliable narrator. It’s easy enough to write an unreliable narrator, much harder to surprise the audience when the truth comes out. Mickey is delusional – the story rests on it. Unfortunately, it’s obvious from the start. I’m not even talking about her drinking, drug use, or the ways she gets dinner. That’s all too common. Nor am I talking about how she bases her self-worth on how many likes and followers she has – that’s also all too common. I mean that reading between the lines, it’s obvious she’s not all there mentally. Granted, it gets worse as the novel wears on, but from the get go, her unreliability/delusion was laid on too heavy handedly. So, when something in her reality turns out not to be true, I wasn’t remotely surprised.
The story held together pretty well until about the half-way point, then it fell apart. I actually found myself rolling my eyes several times, primarily over the use of the Brazilian flu in lieu of COVID. It was pointless. Don’t even get me started on the trial – I’m still trying to figure out how someone can be sentenced when they’re found not guilty (I may have missed something, I was skimming at that point). As bad as all that was, there was one line that actually almost made me stop reading. In a scene where she’s talking to her mom and she wonders why her mom stayed with her dad (who was arrested for engineering a ponzi scheme), her mother says she’s not qualified for a job. Mickey sympathizes since her mom’s generation was raised to rely on a man to provide for them. I’m sorry, what? I’d like to point out that this book takes place in 2019, not 1979, and I was flabbergasted by the conceit of that statement. Apparently I’ve lived my entire life wrong – I should have been looking for a sugar daddy instead of getting degrees and working! Maybe, as a Gen Xer, I’m just in the wrong age cohort to appreciate this thought process (and this book).
Lastly, then I’ll stop hammering on this novel, Mickey could have been redeemed with a decent character arc but alas, that was missing. While there was mild improvement, she ended the book by her mom managing her brand and living off her identity – not much different than how she started but without the drugs and alcohol.
If I’d read this book thirty years ago I might have had better things to say about it. But we’re thirty years too late for that.
I rated this novel 1.5 stars. ⭐+
If you have a different opinion of this book, I’d love to hear it and chat because I’m aware that reviews are all over the chart. Honestly, I think it’s going to come down to age and life experience.
Until next time, thank you for visiting.
My rating system:
5 stars – Wow, I could not stop thinking about this book and/or I wish I’d writtn it.
4 stars – This was an awesome novel, I’d recommend it to friends.
3 stars – This was a good novel, I will look for more by this author.
2 stars – An okay novel, but I probably won’t look for anything else by the author.