How To Disappear – Sharon Huss Roat – HarperTeen – Published 15 August 2017
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.
This book had me laughing and nodding my head in shared understanding by the first chapter. Loneliness, social media, and friendship are all key themes which are handled beautifully in this novel. How To Disappear is funny, moving, and so very realistic.
Vicky’s best friend Jenna has just moved away, exposing Vicky’s social anxiety in a way she’s never before experienced. Now, there is no one to answer for her, no one to talk to when she can force words out of her mouth, no one who understands how hard it is to traverse the high school hallways and sit through class. And when Jenna begins to find new friends, Vicky feels even more alone. In an attempt to convince her mother she is doing fine without Jenna, Vicky Photoshops herself into an image with other teens. The success of the image gives her the idea to try it again, this time in disguise and on social media. Soon, Vicurious, Vicky’s new anonymous Instagram account, goes crazy and Vicky realises she is not the only one out there feeling #alone, and that maybe she can do something about it.
The power of social media. It can connect, reveal, hide, and isolate. Vicky is a wonderfully relatable character. I think anyone who has ever suffered some form of social anxiety, whether that is chronic or occasional, will relate to the embarrassment and fear Vicky feels. Despite her fear, every time Vicky opens her mouth something amazing (or funny or, yes, totally embarrassing) comes out. I loved her. I want to be her friend and just hang with her.
What might have been recycled drama – girl’s best friend moves away and becomes a new and stylishly popular person while having no time for the girl who remains at home (feeling old, unstylish and definitely not popular) – is made original with Vicky’s character. Has everyone lived that scenario or is it just me? Again, totally relatable. Vicky’s unique voice gives this story personality and I loved reading it. Vicky drew me into this story, but it was the writing style that kept my attention.
Okay, I’ll admit that at first I was really hoping something would happen between Vicky and Adrian. He had my attention at the pen through the man-bun. But Lipton did win my heart with his kindness, love of Minecraft, and general awkwardness. I loved how he was nervous and worried and sometimes hurt, but just kept hoping and reaching out to Vicky. Their relationship is very sweet.
This book raises some important topics about teen mental health, self esteem, isolation and social media. It portrays social media in a realistic light, showing both the benefits but also some of the dangers. It is also is pro therapy, which is fantastic, and it addresses a really important aspect about parent denial and support about anxiety and mental health. Overall, How To Disappear is a wonderful contemporary novel, easy to read and perfect for readers who love a bit of romance mixed with a story that is as important as it is relatable.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Isolation, loneliness, teenagers, mental health, best friends, friendships, social anxiety, therapy, social media, Photoshop, Instagram.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Occasional coarse language, sh** (2), assh*** (5), bit** (3), sl** (1). Sexual references, secondary characters discuss being pressured to have sex Mature themes, references to suicide.
Published: 15 August 2017 by HarperTeen.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 384 pages.