Published by Sourcebooks Fire on June 6, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary, YA Thriller
Source: eARC via Edelweiss
Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…
Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.
When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…
Told through tweets, direct messages, and police transcripts.
Diversity: 2 – It’s a Start!
Disability: 3 (Tessa has severe agoraphobia and it’s written pretty well)
I’m all about social media-based books and non-romance boy band books. Kill the Boy Band was a favorite of mine last year despite its fatphobia, but recent release #famous and Ali Novak’s The Heartbreakers failed me. As the first free read I’ve had in months, I chose Follow Me Back. It’s always time for a thriller and the social media aspect was just the icing on the cake! Though it isn’t told entirely through tweets, DMs, and police reports as the jacket copy implies, Follow Me Back was a solid read. Then the ending happened and it went bad.
Tweets and DMs are peppered throughout the book and police reports appear as interlude-esque chapters every now and then, but the majority of the novel is a classic third-person narrative told from Eric’s and Tessa’s points of view. Tessa uses Eric Thorn’s music and involvement in his fandom to copy with her severe agoraphobia and a mysterious incident at a summer writer’s program in New Orleans; Eric despises his fandom for caring more about his looks than his music and is deeply paranoid one of his fans might kill him after one obsessed fan killed her idol, fellow pop star Dorian Cromwell.
Though Eric originally creates his sockpuppet account @EricThornSucks to sink his career, trash his fans, and hurt fandom BNFs like Tessa (the viral #EricThornObsessed hashtag she created to advertise her Wattpad story was the straw to break his back), they end up talking. Tessa think she’s talking to a girl named Taylor–and even when the gender is corrected and she realizes she’s actually talking to a boy, she has no clue her idol is on the other end.
Tessa comes off as your everyday fan, albeit one with a bit more online status. Her struggles with her agoraphobia are written well and it’s easy to both care about and sympathize with her. Once she and Eric start talking regularly, Eric is the one who comes off as obsessed! The guy plans a massive Twitter contest solely as a pretense to meet Tessa after talking to her as Taylor for months on end. Eric’s frustration with what fame has turned his life into are understandable as well.
How else can I put it into words? Tessa, Eric, and their interactions are the strength of Follow Me Back. Trying to come up with anything else would just be bloated babble!
I needed just two sittings to read this book: one long car ride home from a camping trip and one very long vet appointment to make sure my cancer-stricken cat Kai is responding to treatment (don’t worry reader, he’s doing well at press time and still being the dim, 22-lb flubba everyone quickly falls in love with). The story’s tension comes almost entirely from the police reports instead of the narrative, but it works because of Tessa and Eric’s dynamic. If you care about them, you’ll be just fine. If not, you might not have as fun of a time as I did.
One thing that isn’t believable is Tessa’s isolation. Her unsupportive mother and boyfriend are entirely realistic, but Tessa had no friends in high school or all her friends abandoned her due to her agoraphobia? I sometimes went months without being able to speak to my best friends when I was in college six hours from home, but we remained and still remain best friends with a friendship conducted largely via texts and phone calls. We’re too busy to hang out IRL more than once a month. That Tessa has no friends willing or able to accommodate her agoraphobia seems more like a convenient way to push her toward Eric. With so much isolation, she’d be starving for human interaction.
But overall, the book was good and I raced through it. THEN THE LAST CHAPTER HAPPENED. After enjoying the sweet emotional payout of Tessa escaping her New Orleans stalker and finding out “Taylor” is Eric, the last chapter introduces a plot twist that subverts an entire novel’s worth of characterization. If the right hints are planted throughout the narrative, a last-minute twist can work, but this one doesn’t do that work. It reads more like the author wanting to pull one over on readers than one of our narrators successfully deceiving us about themselves for over 350 pages.
To be fair, one believable explanation for what happened occurred to me as soon as I’d finished the book. Still, it’s the kind of twist that makes me feel like I wasted my time and mental energy if this is what I get for my troubles.
Would I recommend Follow Me Back for the pop star fan who wants a thriller to read? Yeah, definitely. But if I find out the last chapter of my ARC stays on as the ending of the finished, officially published book, I’m also likely to tell them not to read that last chapter. Even the best thriller can be felled by an underwhelming ending and that’s what happens to Follow Me Back.