The novel Anti-Social Media, by first-time author Kate Beth Heywood, describes itself as “savagely funny.” In its own unique way, that statement is entirely true. But let’s get to that later. First, what is this novel about?
Constance Anderson is a young woman living out her dreams in the UK. In other words, she is an aspiring screenwriter with no screenplay and no real prospects at selling one. She has no job, a boyfriend she’s fed up with, and a whole 23 Twitter followers, most of whom are of the “we can help you grow your Twitter base if you just…” variety. Yeah, it’s the dream. When superstar actress Jennifer Roberts follows Constance on Twitter, she’s rocketed to fame literally overnight. As the sharks circle in, hoping to use Constance to bite into their piece of fame and fortune, she has to decide if she really wants that life or not.
Jennifer Roberts is a young, ego-maniacal actress who has never heard of Constance Anderson. But rather than admit that she followed Constance on accident (and thereby look foolish), she makes up a story that they’ve been working together for a while on a new, brilliant script that Jennifer wants to be in. That one moment inadvertently flips Jennifer’s world upside-down.
From smarmy agents to relentless paparazzi to faceless social media hounds who think that by blogging they control the world (it’s a lie, MojoFiction controls the world … with this blog), no one is going to make it out of this unscathed.
Anti-Social Media is a funny book, but I would say that it’s situationally funny. For me, there were a few laugh-out-loud moments, but mostly the humor existed on a steady flow of amusement as one bad decision after another created one unimaginable (but still actually plausible) situation after another. The characters are, one and all, miserable people who treat each other poorly and utter enough profanities to make David Mamet blush. And they do nothing but bring destruction on themselves. Even though Constance finds herself swept up and hardly in control, you get the feeling early on that she’s not famous for her street smarts.
Despite how that might sound, I thought the characters were well-drawn and the choices they made felt organic and not forced. After all, what does Constance have to lose by joining up with supposed agent Martin Pyle? What does Martin have to lose by swooping in to represent her before anyone else can? It’s not unrealistic for a young and famous person, such as Jennifer, to obsess over what the media and paparazzi are making of her all over the internet. And when it gets bad, what would she do?
However, I did feel that the author drew from the same well a little too often. For example, we get the idea that Martin is an utter slob with a large, visible collection of pornography. It leads to some humor, but becomes stale after a while.
The author’s decision to keep the main characters on separate, but somewhat parallel paths was interesting. It worked because it built up the anticipation of these two meeting head-on later in the book. But ultimately that seemed to fizzle out because, as the novel progressed, I thought one character became stronger and I wanted the focus to be on that one. That character has more a pronounced journey that reflected the title and theme of the book. I also thought that journey could have been deeper. The material was there, but I thought the author held back a little.
But, you know, that might bother you in the least bit. I share because that was my experience.
I like Kate Beth Heywood’s writing style. She has a dark sense of humor and a good feel for comic situations, the dialogue is good (even if it’s heavy on the foul language), and her characters are interesting. I wanted to know what was going to happen next at the end of each chapter and so I kept on reading. That’s the name of the game.
Finally, as someone who engages in social media, I have to admit that I found myself a few times thinking “Take that!” when a character in the novel got shafted on social media. I suppose that just proves the author’s point.