Review by: B. Nguyen-Calkins
Internet privacy is a scary concept. Anybody, with enough effort, could find your name, photos of you, and even past locations you’ve visited. If somebody wanted to, I’m sure it’d be easy to… you can fill in the blank with any horrifying end. Stalking, online harassment, or worse. Why are we online at all?!
Followers expresses the benefits of online friendships and social media. When Sydney, a horror movie enthusiastic and reviewer, is isolated and hit with constant passive-aggressive comments from her personal acquaintances, she instead goes online where people may appreciate the details of the genre (however shallow they may be). She kindles relationships online that have meaning to her personal life. And, ultimately, she sees her blog as an escape from her dead-end job.
With the benefits of an online life comes risk. Are those often-shallow interactions even reading her work? Do those relationships have any substance? Will she ever make a living as a reviewer? Can Sydney live with the constant horror that runs beneath the surface of her everyday online interactions? And what if those interactions meddle within her personal life? The buildup brewed constantly as I found myself questioning each of the people in her life. This justified paranoia ends up hitting Sydney in the face as she struggles with the balance of digital and personal.
The novel works as a contemporary horror piece on multiple levels. Horror fans will look out for references to the genre as a mental trivia. My personal favorite was when characters review independent horror films at a festival. Holistically, the book is also meta-horror. One element of examining the genre explores the guilt of the “final girl,” especially in a progressively worsened situation. Who could be hurt because she posted clickbait photos for her online blog? How much information is too much to reveal to a virtual stranger? Can Sydney handle the repercussions of a demented stalker?
Strap yourself in and be sure to finish the book, because it truly thrives when Sydney finds herself in her own Scream. Sure, the book is initially carried by its prose and its likable (and unlikeable) characters. Christina Bergling sprinkles some interesting prose inside some dialogue and monologues and plays with some of the reader’s pent-up tension. But while the beginning may seem like a story on another shelf, the story’s resolution rightfully places it as a suspenseful, introspective horror. Followers is a worthwhile read, especially for fans of horror cinema. Its tension builds continuously throughout the story, and it extends today’s horror of digital social lives. The story is finished with some jaw-dropping scenes that seemingly come out of nowhere. It felt like Bergling was biding her time to lull the readers in while she waited for the opportune moment to strike.