'How to Disappear' by Sharon Huss Roat
HOW TO DISAPPEAR
“Vicurious – the only way to be seen is to hide who I truly am.
Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight, quietly navigating the halls of her high school undetected except by her best (and only) friend, Jenna. But when Jenna moves away, Vicky’s isolation becomes unbearable.
So she decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into other people’s pictures, posting them on Instagram under the screen name Vicurious. Instantly, she begins to get followers, so she adds herself to more photos from all over the world with all types of people. And as Vicurious’s online followers multiply, Vicky realizes she can make a whole life for herself without ever leaving her bedroom. But the more followers she finds online, the clearer it becomes that there are a lot of people out there who feel like her— #alone and #ignored in real life.
To help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to face her fear of being “seen,” because only then can she stop living vicariously and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life.” – Goodreads
This is one of the most relevant and timely reads I have had the honour of meeting for a few hours.
No, it is not a multi-fandom billion-dollar revenue-bringing epic that panders to the masses with strong characters and reality-bending world building.
It is instead a quietly brilliant piece, touching every reader not only with its story, but with the message hidden in every hashtag and character.
You see, this book not only tells of Vicky’s struggles with severe social awkwardness and anxiety, but also of the recreation of a completely different self online and her inability to reconcile two different parts of herself. Whilst suffering the same feelings of #loneliness and #seeme, Vicky supports and gives herself to others suffering from depression online by photoshopping herself into impossible but exciting scenarios. In the majority of YA contemporary novels, that ability to slip into a completely different digital skin online is often portrayed in a negative light, but this book shows how social media platforms can create real communities that stem from a shared desire to spread positivity.
The discussion around how every single student – no matter the flawlessness of their social image – feels the constant social pressure to fit in and be seen was also a really significant topic to bring up, as it really lended the story an element of humanness and reality. In real life, every person is more than just their stereotyped or labelled place of conformity. Every human being in the world is an emotional creature with a convoluted mix of complex beliefs, thoughts, dreams and soul, and through a couple words, Roat fleshes main and background characters into morally complex beings with… *gasp* CONSCIENCES. It would have been so simple just to reduce them to their tropes. High school band geek. ‘popular’ girl. Etc. etc. etc. But instead, Roat creates personas we can relate to, reflecting our own view of ourselves, others and the world.
The stand-out adjective on a blurb review of this book is ‘illuminating’, defined as ‘giving or casting light.’ There is no better word I would use to describe this book. It is a message of hope to anyone who has every felt alone, unnoticed and unseen and defies tropes to bring characters and readers alike into a shared space of warmth and mutual connection. But most importantly, in a time where darkness seems to chase away the light, it represents the hope, the friendship and the love.
Rating: ★★★★ (4.4 stars)