A spine-tingling YA thriller, based on a still-unfolding true story Instagram-famous triplets Cecily, Amber, and Rudy—the children of home renovation superstars—are ready for a perfect summer. They’ve just moved into the site of their parents’ latest renovation project when they begin to receive chilling messages from someone called The Follower. It soon becomes clear that this anonymous threat is more than a simple Internet troll, and he can’t wait to shatter the Cole family’s perfect veneer and take back what’s his. The Follower examines the implications of what it is to be watched in the era of social media fame—as well as the lies we tell and the lengths we’ll go to uphold a perfect image, when our lives depend on it.
This has left Rudy and Cecily in the high pressure spotlight, and Amber behind the scenes, running herself into the ground with taking photos, late night editing, and writing captions. Amber is plus-sized and so their mother does not want her in front of the camera (fatphobia). On the first day in the new mansion they are flipping, the triplets are live-streaming the walk-through when the realtor reveals the house's history - someone died there.
When the account begins to receiving threatening comments and messages claiming that the house is theirs and that they need to leave, the triplets begin to look into the past more. As horrible things keep happening, this follower begins to seem more and more horrifying.
What I loved: This definitely has some campy horror vibes with the ghost story and horrifying events that happen. These vibes keep the pace moving quickly as the triplets and reader try to figure out who could be behind it all. The added financial pressure of the parents help to explain why they are still seeing the renovation through while also keeping up their influencer posts. The events that happen definitely add to fear as they escalate over time.
The other themes around social media were also interesting, showing the impacts of negative comments and the ways that people interact through social media (often in toxic ways). The way that the account was being run by their parents was lamented by all the siblings who missed it when they used to do it for fun, and this turning of something fun into a job shows the toll that such changes can have. Importantly, there were some messages around Amber, her size, and the way that she is received that were also interesting. Her mother has pushed her to the background, but when she begins to get a chance to shine, the reception on social media may be mixed, but Amber gets to do what she loves and there is power and confidence in that. I also appreciated Amber's own self-assuredness and her LGBT romance.
What left me wanting more: The ending felt a bit rushed, and I felt like some information was lost in the confusion. The major questions are answered though.
I would also add content warnings for gruesome animal death, poisoning, deadly allergies, murder (past and present), suicide (presumed), mental illness (not treated sensitively), home invasion, and disfigurement.
Final verdict: Creepy and fast-paced, THE FOLLOWER is an intense thriller with interesting side themes around social media. Recommend for fans of THE COUSINS, TEETH IN THE MIST, and RULES FOR VANISHING.