I finally feel as though I’m making my way through my ARC backlog. To the extent that I almost requested some more today. I haven’t yet but I’m sure it won’t be long. The latest one that I’ve finished is a book that I wasn’t sure about. It was one of those that I requested on NetGalley but didn’t expect to get. If I’m honest, I don’t expect to get any of the books that I request. I also always feel really cheeky asking, which is ridiculous. After all, it’s standard practice for publishers to give out free copies and digital copies aren’t exactly going to cost anyone anything. It just goes to show that there isn’t anything that I won’t feel awkward about.
I’ve read a couple of Louise O’Neill’s books before but can’t say that I was very impressed. I was interested to see how this one turned out. It’s certainly quite a relevant topic but it’s also one that we’ve seen before. Social media, cancel culture and questions around consent are topics used in plenty of novels. The question wasn’t whether it was a worthy topic but whether Louise O’Neill has anything to add to the conversation.
Short answer: not really.
Long answer: I’m not entirely sure what this book was trying to achieve. Actually, that’s not true. This book was clearly trying to be as controversial as possible but I can’t see what it thinks it adds to the issues. As a critique of celebrity culture, it’s weak. As an exploration of cancel culture, it’s pathetic. As a dialogue about consent, it’s bizarre and maybe a little contradictory. As an analysis of memory and truth, it feels a little clichéd. Basically, I’m not sure what the purpose of this book is other than trying to cash in on a hot topic.
Samantha Miller is a lifestyle guru. She’s like a less famous Gwyneth Paltrow and has an army of white women following her every command. Before the release of her latest book, Sam is accused of sexually assaulting her former best friend, Lisa. The only problem is, that Sam has just written about the encounter in a recent article as evidence of her sexual awakening. The only thing Sam can do is go back to her hometown and confront Lisa. Unfortunately, this means coming face-to-face with her past. Including her ex-boyfriend who just happens to be Lisa’s husband.
Now, I understand what Louise O’Neill is trying to achieve here with her comparison between the truth and “my truth”. In this age of alternative facts, this could have been an interesting concept. What are the consequences of two people remembering one night in two very different ways? The main problem is that it’s very easy to see how it’s all going to end up. You can tell very early on what really happened so there’s no mystery or big twist.
Also, the characterisation of these two women doesn’t really offer much depth. They’re both just cookie-cutter stereotypes. No depth or development to hide the truth. You can see through everything because we’ve seen these characters in so many other novels. It’s so simplistic. In fact, everything about this book seems simplistic. The way that it represents social media is very singular and sensationalised. The way it represents women is very anti-feminist. The way it describes mental health is the opposite of nuanced. It’s just so basic.
If I can find a positive it would be that it’s a pretty quick read. I just wish it had done more with the topic. We’ve seen plenty of stories of successful white men being accused of sexual assault, so seeing it from a female perspective could have been interesting. It just didn’t come together. Idol is just a little boring and lacks any teal analysis. I’d also suggest that it totally misses the mark with regards to rape allegations both false and true. To a very worrying degree. This book hasn’t convinced me that O’Neill is the writer for me.
4 thoughts on “Book Review – Idol by Louise O’Neill”
Thank you! I thought I was reading the wrong book as all the reviews I’d seen describe something very different to Idol in my opinion. Shallow, tedious, dated, cliched, unimaginative and definitely not a page turner for me. I ditched it 3/4 of the way through to read the last 2 chapters and don’t feel like I missed anything. Really begrudge buying this in hardback for a holiday!
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This! I’ve seen it on so many ‘must read’ lists and I just don’t get it. People are praising how original and how shocking it is. Is it the first book they’ve ever read?