Review: Antisocial by Jillian Blake

by Jillian Blake

Alexandria Prep is hacked in this exhilarating whodunit set in the age of social media and the cloud—Pretty Little Liars meets WikiLeaks.

Senior spring at Alexandria Prep was supposed to be for sleeping through class and partying with friends. But for Anna Soler, it’s going to be a lonely road. She’s just been dumped by her gorgeous basketball star boyfriend—with no explanation. Anna’s closest friends, the real ones she abandoned while dating him, are ignoring her. The endearing boy she’s always had a complicated friendship with is almost too sympathetic.

But suddenly Anna isn’t the only one whose life has been upended. Someone is determined to knock the kings and queens of the school off their thrones: one by one, their phones get hacked and their personal messages and photos are leaked. At first it’s funny—people love watching the dirty private lives of those they envy become all too public.

Then the hacks escalate. Dark secrets are exposed, and lives are shattered. Chaos erupts at school. As Anna tries to save those she cares about most and to protect her own secrets, she begins to understand the reality of our always-connected lives:

Sometimes we share too much. 

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Expected publication date:  May 16th 2017
Source/Format: eARC via Netgalley
Pre-order links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Book Depository
My Rating: ★★★☆☆

My Thoughts:
TRIGGER WARNING: self-harm, suicide, bullying, social anxiety disorder

Anna Soler and her friends are in their senior year. Instead of spending her last days of high school with her friends, Anna chose to abandon them for her shiny jock boyfriend, Palmer, who eventually dumped her inexplicably over the holidays. After the breakup, she wants in again with her old group of friends. While working to earn back their friendship, something huge happened in their school. An email containing a list of google searches was sent to all the students. Then one by one, the hacker starts knocking off the popular kids from their thrones by revealing which (humiliating) google search entries are theirs along with other personal information such as photos and text messages. Anna who was briefly associated with the popular crowd via her ex-boyfriend becomes worried that her personal info will be leaked also and the image that she is projecting to the world will be shattered.

For context, I will mention that the students in this high school subscribe to social strata labels:  Instas are the popular, good-looking athletes, jocks and cheer squadders; Hoodies are the nerds and techies; Thesbos are thespians, artists, vloggers; and Future Leaders are the members of student council. (I know, I hate their clique names, too!) Anna and friends are the little rebels who do not hang out with their own kind. Anna paints and is therefore a Thesbo. Nikki is a stage crew in the drama club, so technically also a Thesbo. Andrew is a lacrosse player, an Insta. Jethro and Haven are both math geeks, the Hoodies. And Rad is the editor in chief of the school paper so she is a Future Leader.

The book depicted a really interesting setting of school frenzy which is caused by a leak of the intimate details the students themselves input in their smartphones. A perfectly stratified high school descended into chaos. It ruined reputations, friendships, prospects for college, and a lot of other things. It’s a crisis that tipped the balance of social order. For example, a bullied kid used the leak as ammo to get back on the popular kids who bullied him before. (This is wrong, kids!) Another instance is when one closeted gay student, whose secret sexuality was revealed by the leaks, took it upon himself to out the other closet gays. (Also wrong, do not do this!) Under normal circumstances, these displays of bad behavior are unacceptable especially under school premises but the leaks made it all happen. This is the most appealing part of the book for me because it sheds a light on how self-absorbed everyone can be. In the normal world order, the popular kids are the ones who seemed narcissistic and did all the stepping down on others. But when the world turned upside down, those on the dregs of the social strata became rabid with revenge and were quick to jump and topple them populars from their pedestal.

As for Anna, the leak of her data means total collapse of the friendship that she is trying to re-build. Then, two of her friends, Haven and Jethro, are the suspects of the hacking incidents. Her other friends are not safe neither: Nikki is a collateral damage from the leaks of a Thesbo student, Rad’s data are leaked and it seems that she and Andrew are using each other to protect their reputation. There is a little romance in the book and I guiltily indulged myself in it. A bit of a love triangle because Anna is still a bit hang up with Palmer and then enter long-time in the friend zone Jethro who has a cute crush on Anna since forever.

“Antisocial” is about the absurdity of fiercely protecting our images in the society to the point of lying, backstabbing and betraying other people. It’s a dog eat dog world, welcome everyone! That seemingly nice and sweet guy is not what he appears to be. That supposed friend is badmouthing you to look cool. These kind of people do not deserve to be happy and end up being friends forever, but in the end the book copped out. The tension was there and it’s tight but it was let down by a loose ending. The whodunit element is nothing special. Then there is this school art show near the end that is supposed to be cathartic and eye-opening but I did not feel anything. The ending is not exactly that bad (others might love it?) but for me it is common and corny. The premise of the book has a lot of potential to have a fascinatingly dark ending, which is what I kinda want. Instead, it became adamant on delivering a lesson of how we should just hug it all out and forgive bad friends who do and say horrible things about each other because (apparently) toxic relationships are better than being alone. I wouldn’t advise against reading this book because it highlights and poses questions that are relevant in this day and age of social media but how about this for a moral story: when you have toxic friends, you can ditch them and find new ones.

Diversity Watch:
Anna Soler is half-Colombian. Her dad, Alejandro is Colombian while her mom, Susan is a Southern belle.

Radhika “Rad” Mehta is Anna’s other childhood bestfriend, and editor in chief of the school paper. “dark skinned like her father but has her mother’s blue eyes...” Her father is an Indian. It is mentioned that Rad has gone to India just once.

Andrew Yang is also Anna’s friend, lacrosse player, “his conservative Chinese parents don’t let him grow his hair long or wear jeans with holes or anyhting like that

Wallace Reid is the star center on the basketball team (implied person of color?) He refers to one redhead kid he was harrassing, “Man, you little white dudes crack me up.”, one of the hacker’s victims.

Aiden “Mac” McDonald is a student who turned out to be gay, force outed other alleged gays.

Sandy Gillis -  sophomore on football team, pushed out of the closet by Aiden.

Geoff Ames - a junior on basketball team, pushed out of the closet by Aiden.
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