“Riveting, compulsive and bold, IDOL interrogates our relationship with our heroes and explores the world of online influencers, asking how well we can ever really know those whose carefully curated profiles we follow online. And it asks us to consider how two memories of the same event can differ, and how effortlessly we choose which stories to believe.”
Samantha Miller is a social media influencer who has created a career from writing books about her sexual assault and struggles with addiction. In one of the essays she’s recently published she recounts a sexual experience from her teenage years with her best friend at the time, Lisa. The essay goes viral and Lisa (now estranged from Samantha) gets in touch with her manager with her version of the events -— which, she argues, was not consensual.
Some of the themes explored in Idol include ‘cancel culture’, online personas and above all, the hypocrisy of those we put on a pedestal. The book compares the narratives we construct for social media and how this distances us from reality. It’s also an examination of sexual assault, #MeToo and the dangers of trial by social media.
Something about this book reminded me of Such A Fun Age. I think it might be because it addresses some hard themes but in a way that is still entertaining and very commercial. The way it read was also a bit like a thriller -— did Samantha assault Lisa? Is she an imposter? — and right up until the end we’re left guessing which created lots of atmosphere.
If I had to offer a critique of this book it’s that I think it could have gone further in its discussions of sexual trauma. In the past when I’ve read O’Neill’s work I’ve always thought her writing really clever, so I would have liked to have seen Samantha’s psychology delved into a little more, to understand the reasons why she behaves as she does. I think without this explanation Samantha comes across as manipulative, immature and generally quite a jarring protagonist.
Readers of commercial fiction will enjoy Idol for its pacing and readability. I also think with the events of recently publicised SA trials it comes across as a very timely read. I highly recommend looking up content warnings before diving in.
Thank you to Tenelle and Transworld for my copy.