Your secret's safe...until it's not. Ivy's always preferred to lay low, unlike her best friend Harold, who has taken up a hundred activities as sophomore year begins. But Ivy has her own distraction: the new anonymous art-sharing app, VEIL. Being on the sidelines has made Ivy a skilled observer, and soon she discovers that some of the anonymous posters are actually her classmates. While she's still too scared to put her own creations on the app, Ivy realizes that she can contribute in an even better way -- by making gifts for the artists she's discovered. The acts of kindness give her such a rush that, when Ivy suspects Harold is keeping a secret, she decides to go all in. Forget gifts -- Harold needs a major party. But when her good intentions thrust her into the spotlight, Ivy's carefully curated world is thrown into chaos. Now she has to find the courage to stand out... or risk losing everything and everyone she loves most.
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When Harold goes to an intellectual camp, Ivy is left to her own devices. And her device has been stalking VEIL, an anonymous app where users can post their art. VEIL gives you a feed of users within 5 miles of your current location and its algorithm blurs out any faces or names in the art or words. Every Sunday, the app is completely wiped and begins anew the next day. As anew app, the users are primarily high school students, but the anonymity ensures that no one will know who they are. Ivy stalks the feed, but she never makes her own posts.
After someone posts a hateful and homophobic rant on VEIL, parents, the school, and many students begin a debate about the anonymity and needing students to answer for such posts. Ivy is in fierce defense of anonymity, although she does not agree with the post. To counter the students who are thinking about no longer using the app, Ivy decides to perform random acts of kindness for the people whose identity she can figure out. As Ivy performs these acts, she learns the value of anonymity or not and comes to some realizations about assumptions and her own responsibilities in that context.
What I loved: There are some intriguing discussions of art and its value in different contexts. This applies not only to Ivy’s art but that of the other students. The use of the internet is also something relevant to the YA audience and looks at a few sides of the app lightly (though this debate is rather simplified through Ivy’s point-of-view). Ivy’s parents are really amazing, and it’s always wonderful to see parents in YA who are really understanding, supportive, and there for their kids.
What left me wanting more: I would have liked more discussion of the plus/minuses of such apps in the internet context to really understand the side of anonymity (other sides are well voiced but Ivy finds this hard to articulate). The book tends to meander with the acts of kindness, Ivy’s new friendship, and her search for her art. I would have liked a more focused story as well as more Ivy/Harold- the scenes we do get with Harold were really strong, but they felt a little too few and far between, particularly in the middle of the book.
Final verdict: Overall, this is an interesting discussion of art and the internet. Targeted to the YA audience, this book fits well with some additional context of apps and wise usage as well as how to be a good friend/ally. Recommend for contemporary YA lovers who are looking for something unique.