Audiobook Review: Follow Me by Kathleen Barber
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (February 25, 2020)
Length: 10 hrs and 13 mins
Narrators: Corey Brill, Erin Moon, Emily Tremaine
We’ve all heard the horror stories about social media—tales of people being doxxed, harassed online, and being cyberstalked. While Follow Me by Kathleen Barber may tread a fine line between real life and sensationalistic drama, its premise still makes for a gripping psychological thriller and a cautionary tale against putting too much of your life on the internet. Indeed, implausible as the novel’s plot may seem at times, its themes are all too real.
Meet protagonist Audrey Miller, a social media influencer and Instagram addict who boasts more than a million followers on her popular account. When the book opens, she has just landed a prestigious new job at a Smithsonian art gallery in Washington DC, fulfilling a lifelong dream of working in a museum, the only reason why she would even contemplate leaving her beloved New York City. As luck would have it though, Audrey already has a couple of close contacts in the area, including Cat, a longtime friend who can help her get set up, as well as Nick, an old college ex who always knows how to have a good time. To Audrey, it seems like everything has been coming together for her lately, and as always, she can’t wait to share all the details of her big move on Instagram.
Unfortunately, what Audrey doesn’t know is that one of her followers has been obsessed with her for a long time, and that her move to his hometown has just reaffirmed his sick fantasy that the two of them are meant to be together. Emboldened, he begins to take more extreme steps to try and get her attention, finding out where she lives, who she likes to hang out with, and the places she likes to go. Shy and reserved Cat, who has known Audrey for a long time, has never understood the big fuss around social media, but is concerned about her friend’s nonchalant attitude about sharing personal details online. Given the cavalier way Audrey posts about her life, practically anyone could be her mysterious stalker.
Like many psychological thrillers I’ve read lately, Follow Me has its over-the-top and unrealistic moments, but it nevertheless kept me hooked and turning the pages. Granted, I don’t mind suspending my disbelief in return for fast-paced entertainment which this novel delivers in abundance, doing what every good thriller does by keeping the reader guessing. Case in point, the character list is quite deliberately stacked with potential suspects ranging from the delinquent son of Audrey’s landlord, the handsy creep at her place of work, or even the possessive ex-boyfriend. In classic mystery tradition, the novel teases the truth for as long as possible and won’t reveal the stalker’s identity until the very end.
Because of this though, nothing in the story really unfolds organically as you can feel the author’s hand in everything that happens, fastidiously maneuvering each and every character or plot point into position so that they would play out exactly the way she wants. You’ll have the protagonist responding in absurd ways that go against logic or common sense, for example, such as refusing to move out of her apartment even with all the problems she’s been having with the place, or the fact she continues to post personal details online despite threats to her safety. The story is also mainly told through Audrey and Cat’s perspectives, though a third belonging to the mysterious stalker will sometimes be interjected into the narrative, so there’s a fair bit of the “unreliable narrator” at play here too.
And if you’re reading this review and thinking, “Wow, Audrey sounds like a real dope,” well…you’re not wrong. While her natural charm may come through occasionally, time and time again our protagonist proves beyond a reasonable doubt that she is a complete imbecile. Ironically though, this does sometimes make her naivete or her utter lack of self-awareness believable, not to mention her behaviors often come across as satirical, poking fun at the stereotypical social media obsessives who are addicted to the attention. Still, whatever can be said about Audrey, characters-you-love-to-hate seem to be a thing with psychological thrillers, and she fits the role well.
In sum, Follow Me is not perfect, but it’s still a fun read that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The main issue is that, while its themes are inspired by very real threats associated with social media and the internet, too much of what happens in the story feel too contrived and farfetched. That being said, there’s never a dull moment with this book, giving the plot a chilling and edgy quality that never lets up.
Audiobook Comments: The audiobook is narrated by Erin Moon, Emily Tremaine, and Corey Brill, each taking on one of the three main POV character parts. I thought Aubrey’s voice was airy and bubbly while Cat’s was more reserved and toned down, highly appropriate for their characters, and the mysterious stalker was sufficiently creepy. A great listen.