Happy Book Birthday to a truly thoughtful tale of coming of age in a social-media-obsessed world!
Kat Sanchez hates the fact that everyone she knows seems to have more Instagram followers than she does. As a budding photographer, and founder with her three best friends of her high school’s Photography Club, she wants the whole world to appreciate the art and craft she puts into carefully taking and presenting her photography. Marcus, the club president and the most together of their bunch, is already planning on heading to a Historically Black College/University once he graduates, and views the club as a stepping stone to that end. He wants Kat to compete with him for the transcript-enhancing position of their school paper’s Photo Editor, but since she’s not really sure what she wants to do after high school herself, her heart isn’t really in it.
Nor is her heart really in the occasional make-out sessions she has with her best best friend Hari. Hari is a babe magnet, whose confidence is somewhat hampered by the fact that his twin brother is the pampered golden boy in their family. He’s been indicating that he wants his relationship with Kat to get more serious, but she doesn’t want to risk their friendship. More importantly, she’s starting to think that she likes girls, too.
One of those girls is Becca, Kat’s gorgeous college-aged co-worker at the local no-kill shelter. Becca is model-pretty and readily agrees to pose for Kat’s growing portfolio. But she herself loathes social media, having had a really bad experience that caused her to dump it all for good.
When, in a fit of sheer frustration with the lack of attention she’s getting both from the online world and from her distant parents, Kat posts a perfectly staged, shot, tweaked and captioned photo of Becca to a brand new Insta account, she’s chagrined that it gets way more attention than anything she’s ever posted in the past. But then the attention becomes addicting, and soon Kat is pretending to be a girl named Max who just happens to look like a girl who’d previously scrubbed all her socials. After a follower named Elena slides into Max’s DMs and hits it off famously with Kat, Kat has to decide how to come clean before the choice is taken out of her hands altogether.
Oh, boy, was this one heck of a cautionary tale about social media addiction and the problem with lying! Crystal Maldonado has a gift for creating flawed, believable young women whose folly causes them to make poor choices but whose strength of character helps them make amends in the process of learning and growing up. Kat has an unusual home life that messes with her self-esteem, and while she’s mostly comfortable with her weight — it certainly doesn’t get in the way of her romantic life! — she is chagrined that skinny white girls almost automatically get more attention on Insta than her own carefully-curated-by-a-brown-girl photography account. Despite my personal antipathy to thirst and FOMO, I could sympathize with those fervid, yearning years of adolescence, when you just want to be accepted and belong, even when all that approval comes from randos on the Internet, and especially when you’re lacking same in your real life. Ms Maldonado navigates the nuances well, and shows how in the end the most important thing is to be true to yourself and to stick by the people who have your back and want what’s best for you (even if Luis does kinda suck.)
No Filter And Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado was published today February 8 2022 (we share a birthday!) by Holiday House and is available from all good booksellers, including