ARC Review: Just for Clicks by Kara McDowell

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Mommy blogs are great . . . unless the blog happens to belong to your mom.
Twin sisters Claire & Poppy are accidental social media stars thanks to Mom going viral when they were babies. Now, as teens, they’re expected to contribute by building their own brand. Attending a NY fashion week and receiving fan mail is a blast. Fending off internet trolls and would-be kidnappers? Not so much. Poppy embraces it. Claire hates it. Will anybody accept her as “just Claire”? And what should Claire do about Mom’s old journals? The handwritten entries definitely don’t sound like Mom’s perfect blog persona. Worse, one of them divulges a secret that leaves Claire wondering what else in her life might be nothing but a sham . . .

 

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I saw this book many times while browsing but it really wasn’t much on my radar to read until I saw a couple of trusted bloggers promoting it on social media. And it definitely didn’t disappoint. It started off really well but then took some interesting and not very pleasing turns, so I kind of have mixed feelings about the book overall.

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Claire is a very realistic teenage protagonist. Her whole life has been about the blog and YouTube and she feels tired of living her life in the public eye. Being a teenager is difficult for anyone, so I could totally empathize with her wanting something different for her future and something even as simple as a friendship that has nothing to do with her online persona. She is also kind of a web design genius and I really loved reading about a STEM heroine. She is witty and hilarious and I loved her silly puns. But she is also scared of strangers and that added an extra dimension to the reality of fame.

The story faltered a bit when it came to the remaining characters. Claire’s twin Poppy, with whom she shares her vlog with felt slightly caricaturish. She is quite enamored with the fame and loves her million subscribers and free clothes and is most excited with the opportunity of a reality show. Their mother Ashley has had her blog since before the twins were born and her life revolves around her brand. She schedules every hour of their life, turns even their supposedly private celebrations into publicity shoots and doesn’t believe in talking about things that make her uncomfortable. Both of them never let Claire ever express her opinion and always impose their decisions on her. Maybe this is how Claire views them and I would have felt differently about them if they had their own POVs, but I just didn’t like both of them for most part of the book. Rafael was the sweet, new boy in town who befriends Claire without knowing that she is internet famous and I absolutely adored their friendship development. It was so beautifully done, but just when I thought I was getting more swoon worthy moments, Claire kept telling unnecessary lies which led to misunderstandings and their budding romance lost the magic for me.

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The writing was very nicely done and I finished this pretty quickly in a single sitting. All chapters are peppered with texts or emails or forum posts in between which made for fun reading. I also thought the author did a good job of giving us the positives vs negatives of fame and popularity and how the persona that social media influencers show us is not the true reality of their life. I think this can be a good read for teenagers who follow such influencers and blindly idolize them. However, I did have some problems in parts too, the biggest being Rafael’s reason for not having a phone. I liked that he was one person who was kind of a technophobe and could happily be without a phone, but saying that it was because he was used to living in a village in India where there was no cell reception felt very poorly researched. Even remote villages like my own native place have reception and even internet these days and dismissing Indian villages as so primitive without technology was done in bad taste. Also, the execution of the plot in the second half of the book went a little downhill. The mystery of Ashley’s past, how Claire decides to deal with it and all the revelations and resolutions towards the end felt rushed, poorly thought out and very out of character for all of them.

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Overall, this was a fascinating read with an insightful look into the private lives of social influencers and I think it’ll be quite enjoyable to younger readers. I think it’s a great debut attempt which could have done with better execution.

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PS: Thank you to Netgalley and Amberjack Publishing for providing me with the advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.

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