I read People Like Her during our (English) Christmas lockdown and that’s how I know it was an excellent read: it totally engrossed me and sucked me in when I was going through one of my all-too-regular pandemic reading slumps.
Opening sentence: I think it is possible that I am dying.
Interestingly, when I was researching the book a little more for this review, I discovered that Ellery Lloyd is actually a pseudonym for co-writing husband and wife duo Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos. The story has three distinct character voices but effortlessly flows and blends, so the dual authorship worked a treat here.
The power of the Instamum
And what is the story? Well, People Like Her has a very contemporary and topical theme. It’s all about the murky depths of social media – specifically Instagram. Even more specifically, the mums who run parenting accounts – sharing their daily lives with thousands of people in a very competitive arena.
Our lead character is Emmy Jackson aka ‘Mamabare’ – a very popular Instamum. Her niche is how real and relatable she is while parenting her four-year-old daughter, Coco and newborn son, Bear. On her squares she seems like a down-to-earth natural BUT she does, of course, have an agent. Everything she posts has been calculated and planned.
The American philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt famously differentiates between lies and bullshit. Lies, he claims, are untruths deliberately intended to deceive. Bullshit, on the other hand, comes about when someone has no real interest in whether or not something they are saying is true or false at all.
This is not fiction
Emmy is good at what she does and this novel shines a light into how much work actually goes into appearing so natural and unplanned on Instagram. From the perfect pictures to knowing exactly what content your audience wants to see.
There is an anecdote in this book that reminded me of the IRL Mother of Daughters trolling scandal – she was one of the most famous casualties of the Instamum world and this alignment adds to the novel’s authenticity. Yes, the plot might be in the realms of a thriller, but crazy shit is happening in the real cut-throat world of social parenting. Excellent source material.
Emmy is a fascinating and complex character. One minute you dislike her and her Insta-grabbing ways – every move can seem so cynical and calculated. Then you feel sorry for her or can see her point of view and her love for her children.
I may be selfish. I may be cynical. But that does not mean that mamabare does not provide a genuine public service.
The sucked in cynic
People Like Her also highlights the dangers of exposing children – without their consent – in a public forum and this is where the next character we get chapter POVs from comes in: Emmy’s husband, Dan.
He is an author, eternally writing his second novel. His chapters provide a critical look at how his wife makes a living. But that’s also the problem – he is living off that money too. Despite his protests, the lure of Instagram – and the #ad pay – is hard to resist. This gives a great dynamic to their marriage and much page-turning conflict.
The mysterious narrator
Every good novel needs a threatening element and it here is comes from the underlying third narrator. They provide the highly-riveting thriller element to this social-media story. I don’t want to give away too much here – but trust me, it’s a creepy, pulse-racing addition.
I enjoy reading novels about the (positive and negative) impact of social media. From how tenuous an influencers popularity is to how much power certain people can command. That much quoted phrase ‘what you see on social media isn’t real’ most definitely comes into play here in a way that makes you think.
Who could have predicted how big, how life-altering Instagram would become?
Fast-paced, clever and a commentary on the destructive power of social media – I thoroughly enjoyed every page of People Like Her. On a random note, it’s the second book I’ve read this year to feature this brilliant German word: Schadenfreude.