Review: Viral by Helen Fitzgerald


Viral by Helen Fitzgerald


So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety six people have seen me online. They include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth year Biology teacher and my boyfriend James.

When Leah Oliphant Brotheridge and her adopted sister Su go on holiday together to Magaluf to celebrate their A-levels, only Leah returns home. Her successful, swotty sister remains abroad, humiliated and afraid: there is an online video of her, drunkenly performing a sex act in a nightclub. And everyone has seen it.

Ruth Oliphant Brotheridge, mother of the girls, successful court judge, is furious. How could this have happened? How can she bring justice to these men who took advantage of her dutiful, virginal daughter? What role has Leah played in all this? And can Ruth find Su and bring her back home when Su doesn’t want to be found?

Viral is a very modern thriller, and a cautionary tale for the social media age we now live in. I think that for teenagers and young adults today it must be so tough growing up in the social media age, where everything that you do and everything that happens is posted online instantly. This novel is an extreme example of what can happen to young women when they let their guard down and someone takes advantage in more way than one by filming the situation.

Su-Jin is the adopted daughter of Ruth and Bernie; she is the apple of her mother’s eye as she is very academic, and has recently been accepted to a top university to study medicine. Su’s sister Leah has always been jealous of Su seemingly due to all the attention that she gets from their mother. However, when Su and Leah go on holiday to Magaluf life begins to unravel for Su.

The opening line of this book is shocking; it actually made me pause for a second to wonder what kind of book I was reading! The shock factor really works though because it gets the reader into the mindset of the shock that Su feels on not only what happened to her, but how it’s gone viral so quickly. It seems like the whole world is watching the distressing video of Su in the nightclub.

Over the course of the book we get to see things from different points of view and the picture is gradually filled in about what happened leading up the video being filmed. I was quite sure from the beginning that Leah had had a huge part to play in the horrible incident but actually my views on her changed as the book went on because we get to understand more about why she is the way she is.

The way Ruth behaves is possibly the most shocking thing in the book because it is as if she has lost her mind in the way she decides to avenge what happened to her daughter. There is an element of black humour running through some of her sections of the novel, which simultaneously lighten the book, and make what she’s doing seem so much worse.

As the book neared its end, I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see how it would all end but I never figured out how it was going to turn out. I love that it kept me in the dark until I actually read the final scenes. It all gets tied up so brilliantly.

I did find some of the things that happened in this book a little hard to believe at times but once I suspended my disbelief I raced through the book. It’s very fast-paced and hard to put down.

The novel is such a brilliant mix of seediness, black humour and revenge. I rated it 4 out of 5.

Viral is out now and available from Amazon.

Many thanks to Sophie at Faber and Faber who sent me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


4 thoughts on “Review: Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

  1. It’s times like this that I am so grateful for living my teens and early 20s without mobile phones! It must be terrifying to be caught up in something viral on the internet.

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