My life as a hashtag by Gabrielle Williams
Allen and Unwin, 2017. ISBN 9781760113681
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. This is a novel that takes adults into the world of adolescents, firmly and deliberately embedding them in the unknown aspects of their world and plummeting them into the deeply emotional world of adolescence. Marie Claude, or 'MC', is unexpectedly not invited to her best friend's party, an unthinkable event. It seems that the boy she liked is 'with' her best friend too, provoking more nastiness and venting. In response, MC goes to various internet personal rant sites, like Tindr, Snapchat, and Facebook, where she thoroughly and completely bags her best friend. Her online voice is not really hers but, as an everyday teenager in Australia, she is astonished by the power of her rant, and her sudden achievement of a global audience. Plummeting the reader into this post-modern world, we are aware that Williams deliberately shocks her protagonist by making her suddenly and frighteningly aware of the huge potential for worldwide recognition of an individual when her posts 'go viral' internationally and she becomes a hit for her virulent bagging of her friend. Her nastiness is rewarded by those who champion this kind of bagging, and the troll attacks begin too. This of course, is not what she expected, and the devastation it brings plummets her into a deep depression that reverberates with the understanding of the power of this medium. Ostracized by her friends, her school and, she feels, the world, she is terrifyingly alone except for the online champions of her nastiness.
MC has also been coping with her parents' life choices and this has caused her a great deal of angst. Things do improve, but this modern fable is a tremendously powerful 'I told you so' moment for a young woman who could not have imagined the effect of those nasty posts. This is a strong, modern, credible and very well-constructed narrative that carries a chilling warning for the power of the internet in the modern world. It is most suitable for older adolescents as it is most disconcerting in Williams' revelation of the capacity of one individual to achieve a worldwide audience that seemed to be simply waiting for such vitriol.