Author: Louise O’Neill
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publication Date: 12th May 2022
‘Follow your heart and speak your truth.’
For Samantha Miller’s young fans – her ‘girls’ – she’s everything they want to be. She’s an oracle, telling them how to live their lives, how to be happy, how to find and honour their ‘truth’.
And her career is booming: she’s just hit three million followers, her new book Chaste has gone straight to the top of the bestseller lists and she’s appearing at sell-out events.
Determined to speak her truth and bare all to her adoring fans, she’s written an essay about her sexual awakening as a teenager, with her female best friend, Lisa. She’s never told a soul but now she’s telling the world. The essay goes viral.
But then – years since they last spoke – Lisa gets in touch to say that she doesn’t remember it that way at all. Her memory of that night is far darker. It’s Sam’s word against Lisa’s – so who gets to tell the story? Whose ‘truth’ is really a lie?
‘You put yourself on that pedestal, Samantha. You only have yourself to blame.’
I always find Louise O’Neill’s books sharply insightful and darkly compelling and Idol is no exception. The story follows Samantha Miller, a sort of self-help guru/influencer, idolised by millions of young women. However, after she publishes an essay about a teenage tryst with her childhood best friend, her highly curated career starts to fall apart, because her friend doesn’t remember the incident in the same way Samantha does. Her friend, Lisa’s, recollection is much less pleasant and Samantha finds herself at the centre of a media storm.
Idol is at times a deeply disturbing and unsettling read. It makes the reader uncomfortable in a sense, asking difficult questions about truth, memory and perception. It also perfectly pierces the bubble of idolising a figure on social media that, in reality, you know nothing concrete about. Samantha is a character that readers will likely and rightly despise at times, however there is also a sort of undeniable dark fascination present in a way that makes it hard to look away, like observing a car crash. Idol is a book with no easy answers and Louise O’Neill is an author that is incredibly skilled at creating thorny and complex stories that will play on the mind of her readers long after they close the book. Razor-sharp, layered and intelligently written – I would highly recommend Idol.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an e-copy of the book. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.
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