New year, new me? Probably… not. However, the New Year does mean lots of new books, and one book that I was looking forward to at the beginning of 2019 was All The Lonely People by David Owen.
All The Lonely People by David Owen
Publication Date: 10th January 2019
Publisher: Atom Books
Format: Review copy from Netgalley
Synopsis: Everyone tells Kat that her online personality – confident, funny, opinionated – isn’t her true self. Kat knows otherwise. The internet is her only way to cope with a bad day, chat with friends who get all her references, make someone laugh. But when she becomes the target of an alt-right trolling campaign, she feels she has no option but to Escape, Quit, Disappear. With her social media shut down, her website erased, her entire online identity void, Kat feels she has cut away her very core: without her virtual self, who is she? She brought it on herself. Or so Wesley keeps telling himself as he dismantles Kat’s world from across the classroom. It’s different, seeing one of his victims in real life and not inside a computer screen – but he’s in too far to back out now. As soon as Kat disappears online, her physical body begins to fade and while everybody else forgets that she exists, Wesley realises he is the only one left who remembers her. Overcome by remorse for what he has done, Wesley resolves to stop her disappearing completely. It might just be the only way to save himself.
If you aren’t following David Owen on Twitter, your feed must be a humourless void. I kid, I kid, but following David is a lorra lorra fun, so you should definitely consider doing so. When I saw that David’s third novel, All The Lonely People, was available to read instantly on Netgalley, I couldn’t resist requesting. All The Lonely People has the honour of being my first read of 2019, but what did I think of it? *mysterious music*
The photos transferred in handful of seonds, morsels of naked flesh flickering across the progress bar as the three boys shielded the screen with their bodies. Every tab open in the browser was a weapon, armed, the images their ammunition. Target locked.
Relentlessly targeted by alt-right online trolls, Kat deletes her entire online presence after yet another online attack; a faked explicit picture posted on her personal website for all of her classmates to see. By deleting the last of her online accounts, she triggers the “Fade”, and she slowly finds herself disappearing from existence. Even though Wesley was one of the trolls who targeted Kat online, he soon realises what is happening to her. Wracked with guilt over his actions, sets out to save Kat from succumbing to the ‘Fade” and disappearing forever.
All The Lonely People is the first book by David Owen that I have read, but I know it won’t be my last. Tackling issues such as misogyny, online trolls, social media (and many more that I won’t name for fear of spoiling the story!), All The Lonely People is a modern YA contemporary highlighting the disillusionment and toxic masculinity experienced by young men today, and how easily they can be radicalised into misogynistic thoughts and actions by their peers and other influences.
The story is told in dual perspective by the two main characters, Kat and Wesley. Seeing as Wesley was part of the group responsible for targeting Kat and harassing her online, it could have been easy to write him off as a troll and nothing more. However, I for one was glad to see that Wesley had a back story, which gave an insight as to how and why he fell in with a bad crowd. Give me all the character motivations. Kat was a likeable character, and I have no doubt most readers will be able to relate to her story of putting the best version of herself online, because really… who doesn’t do that?
All The Lonely People questions how we use and interact with the internet, and examines the issue of loneliness in the digital age via two different experiences of it. I cannot stress enough that All the Lonely People isn’t a “boy saves girl” kind of story, and it definitely is not a love story either. I’m trying not to say too much, but you should know that All The Lonely People features some queer representation and I’m. here. for. it. I wish I could have put clap emojis in between the words of that sentence, just like the young people do.
Something to note is the “supernatural” element of All The Lonely People with the “Fade” aspect of the plot, which does require you as a reader to suspend disbelief. As it can sometimes feel like you need to have some sort of social media in today’s age, the Fade is an interesting take on this notion. I’m not usually a fan of anything supernatural and I had my fears that I would struggle to get into the story, but after a few chapters, I was invested, and if I can read it and enjoy it as much as I did, then anyone can.
It’s no exaggeration to say we need more books like All The Lonely People, books that are not afraid to discuss serious issues. The story of Wesley and his exposure to online misogynistic communities may have turned my stomach at times, but it is these stories that need to be explored more in modern YA. I applaud David Owen for doing so. All The Lonely People was an excellent book to start 2019 with, and if his other books are just as good as this one, I will be making it my mission to read more of them this year.