Title: Girl Gone Viral
Author: Arvin Ahmadi
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: May 21st 2019
Genre: YA Science Fiction
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?
*insert coliseum background*
*insert Opal Hopper’s voice*
Hello world, I am here for another blog tour, bringing you another book review. I haven’t read any book from Arvin Ahmadi yet, but Girl Gone Viral certainly convinced me to read his other works. My scheduled stop for this blog tour was actually on May 19h and obviously, it’s June already. So, I want to extend my deep apologies to JM @ Book Freak Revelations and Penguin Random House International. Life just happened, which details I don’t want to bore you with. And thank you for letting me participate and providing me an eARC. These, by any means, do not affect my review.
Anyway, without further a do, let’s jump into my review.
VIRTUAL REALITIES, FAME, FRIENDSHIP, MISSING FATHER
“But just be careful putting yourself out there. Privacy is hard to get back.”
Right from the very beginning, I already found Girl Gone Viral as cool. Although it took me some time to actually make sense and connect to their world, there’s no hiding that it is, in fact, a cool, imaginative one. Heck, they even have a subject called HISTORY OF SOCIAL MEDIA, HOLOGRAPHIC MEMES and they call IPHONES AS “ANCIENT”. Given that this features a futuristic world with virtual realities, I expected the world-building to be complex but it wasn’t, which, actually made me a kind of underwhelmed at some point. But still, despite the lack of complexity, it is still creative. And I, myself, would really love to enter those virtual realities.
It also explores the topic of fame, showing the lengths people are willing to go for it, the stress, sleepless nights you gain, the privacy you loose, sometimes the relationships being ruined, the publicity stunts you do and the lies you tell in order to keep that fame and remain under the main spotlight.
It also tackles how complicated a friendship between 3 people can get when the two of them both fell in love for their other friend and their friendship suddenly turned into a love triangle. But I loved how they handled it, and how it remained on the side.
I was also really drawn to Opal’s journey of looking for his father. It made me guess, wish and hope too. And I loved how its effects to Opal and her mother, as well as the other aspects of Opal’s life were portrayed. It shows just how much magnitude losing a father has over a child.
CHARACTERS WHOSE HEARTS ARE IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, BUSINESS, AND WRITING
The main character, Opal Hopper, a genius coder, a girl of numbers, of science, of facts, I liked her. I didn’t connect with her in a deep way but I loved how she was created to be this girl of science and technology who slowly learned to embrace her emotions and all other things that makes her human , amid their world where high technologies, especially virtual realities, reign over their lives. I admire how smart, logical, determined, and driven she is. She did things I personally do not agree with. But this is what makes her seem more human and just made me like her even more.
Moyo and Shane, Opal’s bff’s and co-founder of Behind the Scenes, I just want to protect them. Moyo is pure and collected and respectful and so kind. He’s a great, loyal friend you’ll want to have in your life forever. Shane is like the black contrast to Moyo’s white. If Moyo is nice, he’s the naughty. I love him as well – how he respect their friendship, how he battles his mental illness, and just being the true friend that he is. Kara, to be honest I didn’t expect that I’ll like her. But I loved knowing her story which made me understand her.
I love the squad of Opal, Shane, Moyo and Kara, and how they came together. I loved the other side characters as well from Howie (the CEO of WAVE and Aaron Tal’s co-founder), to Mrs. Tal (Kara’s mother a.k.a. Dean Tal of Stanford), to Neil (the assistant who do most of WAVE’s business with Behind the Scenes) to Matthew (the journalist, aspiring novelist) to Nikki (billionaire entrepreneur). They all had pretty relevant roles in the whole story.
BACKWARD SOCIETY VS. ADVANCING SOCIETY
Despite being set in a futuristic society, Girl Gone Viral tackles quite a timely and relevant topic even for us humans in 2019. This sparks the questions: How far should technology go? How far should WE LET technology go? Should we put limitations? Restrictions? Should we just keep on pushing forward? Create more? Do more? Innovate more?
Innovation and technology can make living SO much better and things SO much easier. But it can also steal real people’s jobs, steal your time with your family, lessen your time in reality, and more. I love how this is being discussed with two opposing sides in the story: those who are rebelling and wants to keep technology limited and those who embraces the advanced technologies that is ruling their world, from self-driving cars, to virtual reality, to a voice assistant a.k.a. (non-human) secretary, and so much more and wants to improve it further.
AN ENDING THAT IS BOTH UNDERWHELMING AND SATISFYING
I think the ending really calls for a sequel. I was actually surprised that it has to end like that ALREADY. There is still a fight with the Luds and so much about their politics that has to be addressed. The “Backwards society vs. Advancing society” battle wasn’t actually given a concrete conclusion and we literally have no clue what will happen to their divided country.
Although I was underwhelmed, I was also satisfied by the end to Opal’s journey of unfolding the mystery of her father’s disappearance and knowing the actual truth. And how the love triangle and friendship issues between the squad were fixed and wrapped up. These made me satisfied and utterly happy.
I recommend this if you want a book set in a futuristic society that is less complex and won’t bombard you will lots of technical terms. If you’re also into character-driven stories, science junkies, stories that explores the pros and cons of technology, and books with a group of friends, you might want to try this.
Arvin Ahmadi is the author of DOWN AND ACROSS and GIRL GONE VIRAL. He grew up outside Washington, DC, graduated from Columbia University, and worked in the tech industry prior to becoming a full-time writer. When he’s not reading or writing books, he can be found watching late-night talk show interviews* and editing Wikipedia pages. He lives in New York City.
Have you read Girl Gone Viral? How was it? What are your favorite books that features virtual realities? Share your thoughts below!