How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat
Social anxiety is real. Is debilitating, crippling, panic-inducing, and isolating and everytime the main character Vicky suffered through a bought of it, I felt her pain along side her. I’ve been that girl before, heck, even as an adult, I’ve been that girl. Unfortunately, Vicky doesn’t have a diagnosis but suffers through it and gets by with the help of her best friend, Jenna. Until Jenna and her family move to Wisconsin and she is left, literally, alone. Her mom brushes this off as being shy and like any well-wishing parent who doesn’t understand her daughter is sixteen, not six, encourages her to have play dates with kids from the neighborhood. She buys outfits she will never wear and treats Vicky like this will all go away if she just faces her fear of being shy. It’s that simple. For the record, her mom's heart is always in the right place; she just needs some guidance and understanding which does happen, you have to wait for it. Vicky knows it isn’t even close to being that simple and when she and Jenna have a major falling out, she turns to the only place that makes her feel connected to people. Social media and Instagram. She hardly has any followers herself but loves looking at the people in her school and is good at looking past their images online. She sees the lonely in the pictures and covets the ones with groups of kids having fun at concerts parties, wishing she could be part of that too. This longing leads her to become @vicurious. @vicurious is Vicky’s alter ego. She’s a little punk thanks to some orange and purple thrift store wigs and some modifications to the last outfit her mother bought. She finishes the ensemble with red lipstick and peace sign sunglasses making her unrecognizable and inserts herself via Photoshop (she’s a wizard with it) into places she’s never been before or ever will be. She adds the hashtag #alone. When she checks her phone the next day, she can’t believe she’s gotten so many followers and begins to add more images. In doing so, @vicurious becomes an internet sensation, giving voice to the lonely people in the world, the ones who don’t have anyone and need a friend. She feels a connection to these people and begins to respond to as many as possible, leaving one or two words of encouragement letting them know that someone sees them. It makes her feel good and motivates her to keep going with @vicurious even when she wants to stop. This new found fame and responsibility aren’t the only changes in her life. She’s now a yearbook editor, pictures of course, and has been making a friend in Lipton Gregory, a delightfully imperfect boy who is interested in becoming more than just friends. The descriptions of Lipton’s fumbling, whether it was physical or verbal, were spot on and I could picture myself at that age doing the same thing. Absolutely loved him. But all of this isn’t enough to ‘cure’ her of her anxiety, but it is enough to push her to speak to someone. I was really, really worried that this book was sending the wrong message about social media since Vicky relied on it so much to validate her. At first. But as the story begins to unfold, the writing takes you to these fantastic messages of kindness, hope, and honesty that anyone, not just those suffering from anxiety/depression, should read. This ended up being a pretty quick read for me, and the writing has a lot to do with that, as well as waiting to see what happens when the world finds out who @vicurious really is. Easy recommendation.