This book was a #fail for me.
Internet Famous by Danika Stone follows Tumblr-esque blogger Madison “Madi” Nakama during her senior year of high school. When her mom leaves for a professor job out of town, Madi must learn to balance her blog, her senior project, and her sister’s schedule. Her world is further rocked when an online troll threatens her life on and offline.
I was interested in reading Internet Famous because I like reading books that tackle young people’s lives online compared to real life. Unfortunately for me, this book did not meet my expectations in terms of plot or characters. Overall, I had a difficult time reading this book and struggle to find a way to recommend it to other readers.
My largest issue with this book resides in the main character, Madi. Although Madi is a high school senior, her selfish and ego-centric attitude makes her appear much younger. This caused me to disconnect from her and her story completely. To the nail in the coffin for me was Madi’s blatant disrespect for authority. She handles herself inappropriately when educators point out that she does not follow rules or guidelines on her project. When asked for her identification in the school hallway (mind you, Madi does online school so every teacher may not know what she looks like in person since they do not physically see her every day), Madi’s response is extremely rude. This disrespect escalates when Madi’s project (her blog) is disqualified from her senior project because she monetized it and allowed guest posts on her blog. This leads Madi on a tirade that this teacher hates her and she is too much of a stickler for rules, when in actuality, Madi did not follow the requirements for her project. When faced with the same issue later in the novel, Madi never shows any growth in maturity. In fact, she screams in a library at the teacher, swears at the teacher, and then runs away when the teacher asks her to go to the principal’s office. Below are a few quotes from the book that best showcase Madi’s character:
“The woman’s eyes narrowed behind thick glasses. She pulled a pen from one jacket pocket, a small pad of paper from the other. “What’s the name of your sister? I need to check into this. There’s a protocol for pickups, you know. The school can’t just have anyone wandering in off the street.” The way she said anyone riled Madi. “It’s Sarah,” she said. “Now may I ask your name, ma’am? Because every teacher in this school knows I pick up Sarah from school. I’ve done it every day for the last two years.”
(in reference to her mom’s job) “Funny, u would expect a mother to be at home with her kids”
“You’d better start a rewrite,” Mrs. Preet said seriously. “The end of the year is only three weeks away and you have a semester-long assignment to redo.” “But I have final exams! I can’t just drop everything and redo my whole blog. Can’t you make an exception?” Mrs. Preet crossed her arms. “I can’t and I won’t. Doing that would make it unfair for every other student in this school.”
(after her father finds out she lied about her school project) “The Wi-Fi code is changing the minute we get back to the house. You can use your computer for submitting homework—I’ll type the code in when you need to send in your projects—but no other fooling around online until Mrs. Preet tells me you’ve passed that course.” “But you can’t just take away the Wi-Fi! That’s not fair!”
The other characters fared no better. From the love interest to they villain, they all embodied stereotypical characteristics. Like Madi, they lacked depth for readers to care about them or their importance to the story. Laurent, Madi’s love interest, is completely perfect. He’s the HoTtEsT bOy EvEr with his French accent (which is used as cheesily and unauthentically as possible throughout the novel) and forgives Madi quickly after she accuses him of horrific events that happen in the novel. Her teacher is the WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD for holding her to the same expectations as any other student. The villain, barely present in the book, only spouted the same phrases over and over. Basically, you’ve seen all of these underdeveloped characters at least a dozen times. Below are a few quotes pertaining to these characters:
I also cringed at how Madi solved the “case of the troll” and thought it promoted ineffective problem-solving strategies for teenagers who read this book and come across cyberbullying. When Madi receives threatening comments, Madi responds impulsively which escalates the situation. After the police inform Madi that it may take months to locate the troll, she takes matters in her own hands in a way that places both herself and her sister in danger. These actions are applauded by other characters in the novel. While I am all for characters sticking up for themselves, I think the way this situation was handled was inappropriate and could encourage readers to put themselves in dangerous situations to “cancel” a troll.
As for the pacing and overall plot, this book struggled to keep me engaged. Between blog posts about 80s movies, multiple coffee dates, and internet trolls, I just could not find myself invested in any part of this story. I read this book over a span of several months because I could barely stay engaged. While I could have put this book down, I pushed through hoping for the story to change since I already finished a significant portion of the book.
To me, this book missed the mark on so many levels. I rarely rate books lower than two stars, but this is an exception. From the underdeveloped characters to the plot, nothing worked for me in this story. I give Internet Famous one out of five stars.
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