No Filter and Other Lies
– Crystal Maldonado –
Published 8 February 2022
Social media is such a massive part of our young readers’ lives and yet its reach and impact is so often left out of YA fiction. No Filter and Other Lies addresses the addiction of social media, it’s dangers and its benefits head on. It also addresses the inherent racism and sizeism of social media and the challenges teens face in navigating this online world.
Kat is a photographer, friend, granddaughter and dog lover. She’s also pretty good at lying. For years, she’s been lying to everyone but her best friends about where she lives. Most people think she lives with her parents, as evidenced by the perfect family photos her mother shares on Facebook. But Kat actually lives with her grandparents. So, when the opportunity arises to share her work as a photographer on Instagram to a much wider audience, Kat takes it. It’s only a small lie and what’s that in the scheme of her life? Yes, she has to borrow her friend’s (perfectly gorgeous, white, thin) face after she expressly said she didn’t want to go back on social media. But, Kat will also use the account to share about the dogs at the shelter she works at, so there will be some good come from the whole thing. But when Kat starts to fall for a girl she chats with online, things get complicated. Especially when that girl thinks Kat is a 21-year-old college girl called Max.
I loved, loved, loved how this book explored Kat’s love-hate relationship with social media, Instagram, in this case. It’s easy to spot Kat’s addiction to the platform. Constantly checking her phone, searching for likes, desperate to have her voice heard on a wider reach. Her friends call her out on it, but since they are not the most supportive friends and call her out for things like being fat, it’s hard to take their concerns seriously. It starts as a small step across the line between right and wrong – posting from an account as someone else. As Kat reasons, millions of people share photos that have been photoshopped and altered. Nothing on social media is real anyway, right? It brings up some very important issues that teens are dealing with right now. It also calls out the very blatant white, thin, pretty bias of social media. Kat shares her photos as herself and as Max and the difference in response is staggering. Kat must face the consequences of her choices and she grows so much from this, but I felt like the consequences fell very heavily upon her and not on the problems of the platforms themselves or her friends and the harm they in turn caused her. Just another sign of the times, and very true to reality I suppose.
Kat’s false Instagram account is not the only lie in this book. I very much enjoyed reading Kat’s story of living with her grandparents but pretending to live with her parents. How Kat’s own use of social media portrayed alongside Kat’s mother’s use of Facebook and Instagram to share a story of a perfect family, a story that isn’t true, is very powerful. The backstory is explained but it really comes down to how Kat feels about it. Again, how Kat works through this, grows and refused to let herself get bitter about it but instead chooses to be better and the bigger person, was amazing.
The ending surprised me. I quite literally flipped the last page and was shocked that I had come to the acknowledgements. It’s not that the story isn’t finished, it is. I just thought we’d get more of a happily ever after. And we do. Just not in the way I expected. And I loved that!! I loved how the author took my expectations and turned them on their head and gave me something far more realistic, far more painful but also far more fulfilling. Full credit to Crystal Maldonado.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Social media, body image, photography, lies, family, grandparents,
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Representation: Fat main character. Mexican main character. Bisexual main character. LGBT relationships. Black, brown and white side characters. LGBT side characters.
Advisory: Coarse language, f*** (47), sh** (92), pi** (11), bit** (1), as***** (2). Sexual references, references to hookups and hookups that almost lead to sex. References to body image issues. Racism, sizeism.
Published: 8 February 2022 by Holiday House
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 336 pages.