No Filter and Other Lies
They’re usually little lies. Tiny lies. Baby lies. Not so much lies as lie adjacent.
But they’re still lies.
Twenty one-year-old Max Monroe has it all: beauty, friends, and a glittering life filled with adventure. With tons of followers on Instagram, her picture-perfect existence seems eminently enviable.
Except it’s all fake.
Max is actually 16-year-old Kat Sanchez, a quiet and sarcastic teenager living in drab Bakersfield, California. Nothing glamorous in her existence—just sprawl, bad house parties, a crap school year, and the awkwardness of dealing with her best friend Hari’s unrequited love.
But while Kat’s life is far from perfect, she thrives as Max: doling out advice, sharing beautiful photos, networking with famous influencers, even making a real friend in a follower named Elena. The closer Elena and “Max” get—texting, Snapping, and even calling—the more Kat feels she has to keep up the façade.
But when one of Max’s posts goes ultra-viral and gets back to the very person she’s been stealing photos from, her entire world – real and fake — comes crashing down around her. She has to figure out a way to get herself out of the huge web of lies she’s created without hurting the people she loves.
But it might already be too late.
She works at a pet shelter, managing social media and taking photos of the dogs in the hopes of helping them find their forever homes. Photography is everything to Kat, and she craves the attention of likes and comments on her photos posted to instagram that just seems so elusive. After a particularly bad night, she makes an alcohol-fueled decision to post the photos she has been taking of her sort-of friend in a new account with a fake name, Max. When it takes off, Kat finds herself in a hard place - especially since she has been talking to someone she's started to have a crush on, but who only knows her as Max. This tangled web of lies just keeps building, as Kat tries to rationalize her decisions, manage her family problems, and relate to her evolving friendships.
What I loved: This is a really complex story that speaks to a lot of really thought-provoking themes around social media, friendships, and family. Kat is still learning and growing, trying to use the lens that she has been forced to view the world to continue to interact with it. When it feels like you are lying all the time about your family, what are a few more lies? Her background and anxieties certainly feed into the present issues and katfishing that seem ready to implode throughout.
Dealing with social media can be tough - there is the rush of recognition and attention but also the tough dealing with the lack of it. Kat lives by these comparisons and suffers for them. Additionally, the bias towards white and thin people is one she grapples with as a plus-sized brown girl. These concerns around social media are certainly ones that will resonate with young people. Through her friends, we also see other concerns and issues that arise with social media use, including cliques, cyber-bullying, and harassment.
Kat is also coming to new realizations about her sexuality that felt really genuine. She has these feelings that she is slowly beginning to connect to crushes on other girls. This rep was really great. At 17, Kat is really just starting to come into her own, figure out herself and what she wants, both in terms of a partner but also out of life and her family. The complexity of her family is another interesting element, showing the way relationships are built, tainted, and challenged. Her grandparents were really phenomenal, and I am so glad she has them. These relationships are contrasted with her parents to show both healthy and unhealthy family relations in clearer strokes.
What left me wanting more: In some ways, this was like a train wreck you could see coming, as the lies begin piling up, and it's clearly problematic. This can cause some anxiety for the reader (and for Kat!). I would have appreciated if we could see her getting additional help for some of these issues, such as with a therapist. There's another character suffering from similar problems (whether diagnosable or not), and it would be great to see them accessing resources and being able to find the help they need to deal with these. Anxiety and panic attacks can be really debilitating, and children (or anyone) should not have to deal with them alone.
Final verdict: A thought-provoking look at the importance of honesty, family, and social media, NO FILTER AND OTHER LIES is a compelling YA contemporary. Recommend for fans of FOLLOW YOUR ARROW, DON'T READ THE COMMENTS, and SUPER FAKE LOVE SONG.