There are no spoilers in this review.
I discovered Arvin Ahmadi’s writing with his debut last year, Down and Across and right there and then, I knew he was a promising author to follow. His sophomore novel, Girl Gone Viral, is a 360° turn from his contemporary, coming-of-age debut and yet, it only showed me that Arvin Ahmadi manages to write both in contemporary and science-fiction just as well and in compelling ways.
The biggest thanks to the Penguin Random House International and JM @ Book Freaks Revelations for sending me a free e-ARC of this book and for accepting me as part of this blog tour. This did not, in any way, influence my thoughts and rating.
A FASCINATING WORLD OF VIRTUAL REALITIES
Girl Gone Viral tells the story of Opal, living in a world where new technologies have taken over the world, virtual reality is everywhere. The 17-years-old teenager will use these technologies to go viral and manage to reach out to the man detaining the truth about her father’s disappearance. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?!
The world-building, the ideas behind WAVE, this giant virtual reality platform and the way it was built, the way it worked and the way the characters could immerse themselves into this alternate reality whole, was really, really imaginative and interesting to read. It took me a little while to get used to this world and the technologies, because I quite couldn’t grasped how it all worked, but yet Arvin Ahmadi told Opal’s story and adventures in such a compelling, addictive way that my confusion quickly went on one side of my head, almost forgotten.
I also loved the ambivalence between the ones who embraced virtual reality, self-driving cars and this abundance of technologies ruling the world and the ones who were reluctant to accept it, rebelling and willing to get back in time where technologies weren’t so big. This sub-plot was really interesting to read and I loved Opal’s influence on it all, too, as she, well, went viral.
GREAT CHARACTERS AND AN EMPHASIS ON FRIENDSHIPS
Yet, if the world, its stakes and its specifications were interesting, for me it wasn’t the strong suit of the book. The characters were, as well as their relationships to each other.
Opal, our main character, was one bad-ass coding girl that I really appreciated. Her will to resolve the mystery behind her father’s death, her development as she becomes famous, recognized on the streets and so on. Did I love Opal all the time? Did I enjoy the way she treated her friends, at times? I can’t say yes with certainty, but I can say that the way she reacted was understandable and, yes, flawed, but definitely human. Her mistakes as the story goes on made her seem all the more human in the situations she faced and I appreciated that so much.
Her friends, Moyo and Shane, were great as well and I love how both of them played an important role in the story, too. Moyo, Shane and Opal’s relationship shaped the entire story and so may things happening, with their complicated interactions and complex friendships, fraying, changing and building up again as the story went on and, friends, I am all for these kind of stories.
Girl Gone Viral was a roller coaster, slowing down at times only to rush back up again, a pace that made me keep on reading and always wondering what would happen next. From the technologies, overwhelmingly present, to the power of fame and numbers, to doing what feels good and what’s actually right, this story had a lot going on for itself. I loved seeing Opal grow as the got closer to the truth and, from manipulations to publicity stunts, how she managed to find herself thrown left and right yet still managed to right herself. I had some issues with some conflicts in the story that I found too easily resolved and an ending I would have liked a little more wrapped-up, yet I still had a fantastic time reading it all.
Girl Gone Viral was a very compelling read with an interesting world-building, great, complex relationship and a quest for the truth filled with twists, turns and surprises. I’d recommend it to fans of sci-fi, virtual reality stories and compelling narratives. Can’t wait to read more from Arvin!
Final rating: 4 drops!
Trigger warnings: ableist language (crazy), talk of suicide, sexual harassment, cyber-bullying, discussions on suicide, alcoholism and drinking, insomnia, chronic depression, physical violence, death (on-page).
Diversity: POC main character (Moyo, Nigerian) and side character (Nikki)
Arvin Ahmadi, Girl Gone Viral, Published by Viking Books for Young Readers, May 21st 2019.
For seventeen-year-old Opal Hopper, code is magic. She builds entire worlds from scratch: Mars craters, shimmering lakes, any virtual experience her heart desires.
But she can’t code her dad back into her life. When he disappeared after her tenth birthday, leaving only a cryptic note, Opal tried desperately to find him. And when he never turned up, she enrolled at a boarding school for technical prodigies and tried to forget.
Until now. Because WAVE, the world’s biggest virtual reality platform, has announced a contest where the winner gets to meet its billionaire founder. The same billionaire who worked closely with Opal’s dad. The one she always believed might know where he went. The one who maybe even murdered him.
What begins as a small data hack to win the contest spirals out of control when Opal goes viral, digging her deeper into a hole of lies, hacks, and manipulation. How far will Opal go for the answers–or is it the attention–she’s wanted for years?
Did you read Girl Gone Viral? Do you want to?
Do you like science-fiction with new technologies, virtual reality and so on? Any recommendations? Let me know in comments!