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Thursday, April 21, 2022

Review: Like Me by Hayley

Like Me
by Hayley Phelan

Thanks so much to Lake Union for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: March 1, 2022
272 Pages
Genre: Psychological Thriller

A propulsive psychological thriller that follows an aspiring model down a social media-fuelled rabbit hole of obsession, narcissism and self-destruction.

For nineteen-year-old Mickey, Instagram offers a tantalizing portal into the world she wishes she inhabited. Though beautiful, cunning and privileged, Mickey finds herself with a stalled modelling career, an escalating drinking problem, few friends and next to nothing in the bank. To numb her growing despair, she spends her days frantically refreshing her Instagram feed, obsessively tracking the movements of Insta-famous model Gemma Anton.

Gemma is a perfected version of Mickey, living a seemingly perfect life: a skyrocketing career, a famous photographer boyfriend and adoring followers--the life Mickey wants more than anything for herself. She studies every detail Gemma offers through the window of her phone, trying to absorb, learn, mimic, become the object of her growing fascination.

Then, a chance encounter thrusts Mickey into a world of opportunity, and she is met with surprising, and immediate, success. But as her online persona begins to take over her life, Mickey finds it increasingly difficult to separate reality from the facade of Instagram.

Engrossing, sharp and astute, Like Me is a shimmering portrait of infatuation, disconnection and identity in the digital age--and a dazzling introduction to a brilliant new voice in contemporary literature.

My Review:

My bff sent me a photo of a handwritten letter I had sent her shortly after we had graduated from college and the first line said "I got your page last night".  I had to take a moment to realize that this was pre-cell phone days and I had a pager during those baby tech days. These days we have computers in our pockets that we can't seem to live without (guilty), the grip of social media and the urge to perform and influence and compare.  And so here we meet Mickey.  A 19 year old, fresh faced model whose father is incarcerated, mother is delusional and all she wants to do is be Gemma - an Instagram famous model with similar features. She's OBSESSED.  Mickey is young, impressionable, addicted to cocaine and cares more about being a brand rather than a human.  

Within the first few pages I thought for sure I was going to DNF this one.  FFS, Mickey is SO annoying.  It's really hard to find some empathy for her.  The situations she gets in.  The casualty in how she deals with sex and drugs.  And omg, if I had to hear Gemma's name one more time.... *pulls hair*.  But then something just clicked and I couldn't look away.

I can't tell if this is supposed to be a bit of a satirical look at the influence of social media and the banes of the modeling industry.  Or if it really was on-the-nose for the dark side.  The way she takes advantage but then is also taken advantage of... and all in the name of the likes and infamy of Instagram.  But just as easy as social media gives... how easily it will also strip you of your humanity.  At the end, I gave my forehead a thinking massage trying to decide if this was brilliant or a "wtf did you just do to me" kind of read.  Yes, there are plot holes.  Yes, I'm still a bit befuddled by the happenings and that ending that leaves you curious.  Yes, it can seem like Phelan takes an almost too relaxed look at the two polarized sides of today's version of popularity and drive.  However, I think for the sake of Mickey's experience and how unfortunate it is that this shit happens in this day and age... well, this is a thinker for sure.  

I think this will be a love it or hate it kind of read, but either way it will certainly sit with you.


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