This review is going to be pretty spoiler-tastic, I’m afraid.
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…
I had some hopes for Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger. I don’t often read thrillers, mainly because I find their attitude to mental health frustrating at best and dangerous at worst. However, because this explicitly talked about agoraphobia (something I’ve experienced in the past) and fan culture, I thought I would give it a whirl.
I really liked the first 200 pages. It played with formatting, as the story was told through police transcripts and twitter DMs. I recently read Illuminae and hugely enjoyed how it played about with stuff like that, so I was happy to see this again. I also thought that the therapist was pretty good. The novel went into a lot of detail about projecting feelings, as well as creating touchstones to the outside world, which I thought was quite well done. There were a couple parts that I took issue with, such as the idea that Tessa owes her boyfriend sex for ‘putting up’ with her mental illness, but overall it was okay.
It is in the last 100 pages that shit starts to hit the fan. The big ‘reveal’ of Tessa’s mental illness (which I did NOT appreciate being used to create tension) is that the previous summer, she’d had a stalker. Fast forward to the story now, this stalker has convinced himself that he and Tessa are in a relationship, found her again, and held her hostage. Long story short, Tessa manages to attack the stalker and meet up with Eric, a guy she has fallen in love with over the Internet, at the police station.
At this point, she has no problem leaving the house. She just GETS OVER her agoraphobia, literally stating: “It’s not an irrational fear if you have a real reason to be afraid.” Okay. I’m gonna get personal with you guys. I have had a stalker. Like Tessa, this is the event that triggered my mental illness. Facing up to your fears and punishing your stalker doesn’t just magically cause your mental health issues to go away. Trust me, I’d know. Also, newsflash to neurotypical people: mental illnesses can be triggered by something, they can appear one day for no apparent reason, they can have been there your entire life – they are all equally valid. Rational fears can cause mental illness, and intellectually understanding why you might be mentally ill does not always help with recovery.
Finally, at this stage – I have no idea what the hell that ending was about. I like an ambiguous ending, don’t get me wrong, but one of the possibilities is that Tessa has killed Eric, thereby cementing the idea in the novel that mentally ill people are dangerous. Just NO, ‘kay? NO.
I do not recommend this book.