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Viral by Helen Fitzgerald
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527350,553 (3.05)2
When Leah Doyle and her adopted sister Su go on holiday together to Magaluf to celebrate their A-levels, only Leah returns home. Her successful, swotty sister remains abroad, humiliated and afraid: there is an online video of her, drunkenly performing a sex act in a nightclub. And everyone has seen it. Jennifer Doyle, mother of the girls, successful court judge, is furious. How could this have happened? How can she bring justice to these men who took advantage of her dutiful, virginal daughter? What role has Leah played in all this? And can Jennifer find Su and bring her back home when Su doesn't want to be found?… (more)

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My Thoughts:

“I sucked twelve c*cks in Magaluf.
So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety-six people have seen me do this. They might include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth-year biology teacher and my boyfriend of six weeks, James.”

Helen Fitzgerald pulls no punches from the first line of this book, a contemporary novel that explores the consequences of a drunken indiscretion gone viral.

Su Oliphant-Brotheridge and her sister Leah, are celebrating the end of A-Level exams in Magaluf when a few too many drinks on their last evening abroad, results in Su on her knees in a nightclub. When a recording of the incident is uploaded to the internet, Su panics and goes into hiding, hoping not only to avoid, but also to protect her family from, the worst of the inevitable notoriety.

“#shagaluf is trending worldwide on Twitter. If you type the word slut into Google, I am the first news item to appear.”

It’s a nightmare scenario for any parent. To their credit, Su’s parents -Ruth and Bernie, are more concerned for their daughter’s wellbeing than shaming her for her mistake. Even as it begins to affect their own professional and personal lives, they frantically attempt to minimise the fallout which threatens to derail Su’s future. When it’s clear they losing the battle, Ruth, a court judge, grows increasingly furious that no one can be held legally accountable for the viral video that has caused such destruction, and takes matters into her own hands.

“Xano, you have been found guilty of filming the sexual assault of my daughter. You have been found guilty of sharing abusive images. You have been found guilty of sharing lewd images without consent. You have been found guilty of destroying the life of Su Brotheridge-Oliphant. Guilty of destroying her self-image, her confidence, her friendships, her past and future relationships, her sexual well-being, her career, and her entire future. In relation to destroying my career: guilty. My life, everything I’ve worked for, fought for, and loved: guilty. And last, on the count of the murder of Bernard Brotheridge: guilty.”

Meanwhile, Leah is ordered to find her sister and bring her home. Fitzgerald explores the troubled dynamic between the sisters as they wrestle with feelings of resentment, jealousy, guilt, and blame.

“I’ve spent years pussyfooting around you and all you’ve done is treat me like dirt. Did you spike my drink because your friends started liking me, Leah? Were you mad about that? You feel left out, that the order of the universe was shaken? Did you shout “go, go go” because you wanted me back in my place, because it was such a blast to watch me ruin myself?“

But this is really Su’s story as she tries to reconcile what she has done with who she is. It’s a compelling narrative which I thought Fitzgerald presented well...until the last few chapters.

“Don’t let it be the thing that defines you.”

I understood Su’s desire to search for her birth mother, but finding her was ridiculously easy, and the situation devolved from there. Similarly Su’s flight of fancy, after her return to Magaluf, was a bit silly.

Aside from those final missteps, I thought this was a well paced, thought provoking and relevant novel. Not her best, but I found it engaging. ( )
  shelleyraec | Apr 17, 2019 |
The caption on the cover sums this novel up quite nicely.

A twenty-something adopted daughter is filmed in a tavern committing an act that goes viral when an unsavory man uploads the recording to the internet.

The novel follows as the young woman deals with becoming worldly notorious almost over night, while explaining her ongoing turmoil with her sister and powerful, steely mother.

As the novel unfolds, each main character is followed, with the tale detailing their own reactions to the viral video how their lives are changed and what they will do in response to the video and to those involved in the making and distribution of the video.

It's an interesting novel and good for killing some time.....

( )
  EricEllis | Sep 2, 2017 |
I loved the premise of this book. Good girl does something completely out of character and is unlucky enough to be caught on camera so the world can see her humiliation. With communication the way it is now even leaving the country isn't enough, it's truly global embarrassment. It's a fantastic idea and it was nearly perfectly done. Su's desperation was vivid and the feeling of being totally alone in a foreign country was portrayed brilliantly. Her family back home, in particular her capable, in charge mother were convincing and I loved the back story of her parents romance. However as the book went on I felt the characters, particularly Su and her mother started to act in a way that felt slightly unconvincing. The penultimate chapter and Su's actions seemed extreme however the end pulled reality back for me. I loved the final chapter and thought it finished the book perfectly. Highly recommended. ( )
  angelaoatham | Feb 21, 2017 |
There is no gentle build up, carefully developing the scene and setting a context, with this novel. Helen Fitzgerald pitches the reader straight into the story with one of the most arresting opening lines of recent years: ‘I sucked twelve cocks in Magalouf.’ This exploit is captured on the mobile phones of several onlookers and participants in the revelry and posted online where it duly goes viral. As the story develops, the number of times the footage has been viewed escalates at exponential rates.

Hitherto Su-Jin (known almost exclusively as Su) has been a model daughter, pupil and citizen, studying hard at school, working hard at a part-time evening and weekend job and securing a place to study medicine at the prestigious Edinburgh University. Adored by her adoptive parents, the only slight fly in the ointment of her life has been the fractious relationship with her slightly younger sister. Against her better judgement, Su allowed herself to be persuaded to accompany her sister and a couple of friends on a jaunt to Magalouf to celebrate the end of school and their imminent departure to university. After a week of increasingly wild behaviour, Su ends up in The Coconut Lounge where her recollection of what happens ends.

Su was born in Korea and given up by her natural mother within hours of her birth. Ruth and Bernard Oliphant had longed for a child but after a series of crushing setbacks and traumatic miscarriages had chosen to adopt. Within weeks of collecting Su Ruth found herself pregnant, giving birth to Leah just a few months later. While Su is a runaway success at everything she sets her hand to, Leah is a sullen, solipsistic underachiever, resentful of finding herself so frequently in her sister’s shadow.

Fitzgerald alternates the narrative perspective between various characters, managing to strike stark comparisons in their behaviour and responses. We start with Su’s aghast reaction as she wakes up the next day and discovers the footage already viral on the net. She flees from her sister and the other friends, and decides not to accompany them on the flight home. We then encounter her mother, Ruth, a Sheriff in the Glasgow court who is the ultimate control freak. She learns of the footage from her husband, Bernard, an ineffectual American musician who seems to have lost his way in life (probably a consequence of the relentless eclipse of his wife). Meanwhile Leah is a brilliantly captured disgruntled teenager: self-absorbed and convinced that everyone is against her.

As the story proceeds we gain further insights into each of the characters, building up a clear understanding of what drives them. There are painful truths for everyone, not least Ruth’s growing realisation that she prefers her adopted daughter to her natural one.

The novel is well constructed and tightly plotted. My one quibble was the sheer efficiency with which Ruth responds to her daughter’s predicament. She just seemed too flawlessly and coldly calculated. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Oct 30, 2016 |
Su is a Korean 18 year old, away in Magaluf with her 17 year old sister, Leah. It's not Su's scene at all but her adoptive parents only said Leah could go if Su went as well. Leah instructs her that she's got to fit in and so Su ends up behaving out of character, culminating in her doing something shocking that is videoed and put on the internet. The video goes viral and the book is about the fallout of that, not only for Su but for her whole family.

This was an absolute page-turner for me. I read it in two days and just couldn't put it down. I did find some of the characters' behaviour a bit strange at times and the teenagers' 'voices' a little irritating, but this is such a compelling story and a very current one. It's a very readable book and just a little bit scary. ( )
  nicx27 | Mar 21, 2016 |
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