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.
Man. This book. I don't even know. I read all of Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger in one big rush, basically whenever I had a minute free. I started off a little bored, but then got absolutely sucked in. For the record, it also chewed me up and spit me back out and all those other cliches. Basically I finished this thing thinking, "WTF did I just read?"
First thing. The first 3/4 or so are so engaging. I liked the dual POV, the mixed format with DM conversations, prose, and police transcripts. I liked the suspense of not knowing who to trust and also the build up between the main characters.
Eric Thorn is told to reach out to his fans online, despite his huge fear of all of them. When he creates an alter-ego and starts messaging Tessa, his biggest fan who's just gotten sort of internet-famous for writing fanfiction about him, he shouldn't start liking her. But he does. And then what develops between them is a sweet and also kind of scary relationship. Because he's totally lying about who he is and Tessa is more than a little fragile. But it's definitely wish fulfillment, right? Your favorite celebrity finds you and secretly falls in love with you and YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW THAT YOU'RE JUST THAT SPECIAL. (This book started out as Adam Levine fanfiction, btw.)
As a thriller, it only sort of works. The police transcripts build up a lot of suspense about the end of the story, but the pay-off is a little disappointing. And the ending itself will make you lose your mind. Here's a full disclosure: I about lost it at the ending and had to go stalk Follow Me Back on Wattpad, where it originated and where a sequel awaits. There are differences between the Wattpad and the published version, but I couldn't let it go.
But an ambiguous, blow-your-mind ending can be a good thing. Endings don't have to be clean. Life is messy, and most of the ends to anything are, too. All I can say is it's either a brilliant ending or the worst thing I've ever read.
The issues with the ending of Follow Me Back aside, I was also more than a little uncomfortable with the handling of mental illness in this book. Tessa has extreme agoraphobia for the majority of the book, but it becomes suddenly and quite completely cured about 20 pages from the end. This doesn't feel okay. Mental illness doesn't work that way. Mental illness, in general, felt poorly handled in this book.
Should You Read It? If you love fandom stories and celebrity romantic thrillers told from interesting perspectives, you'll probably love A.V. Geiger's Follow Me Back. If you're not into mental illness being the main source of tension in a book that ultimately may not handle these issues very well, then you might want to stay away.
3 1/2 stars
Published by Sourcebooks FIRE on June 6, 2017