I first heard of the World Wide Web in late 1995. From then I saw all the developments occur; flash, then blogging, YouTube, social media sites and streaming services. Without sounding too old, I saw a new culture form. One where anybody could both voice an opinion and exert influence. Such is the main theme in Lon Kirkop’s debut novel: Mitt Elf Isem Iħor ( A Hundred Thousand Different Names).
Julia/Jules is an influencer: She uploads content on YouTube which range from make up tutorials to vegan recipes. Sometimes there’s vlogs and Q & A sessions. In summary, typical YouTuber.
Manda is obsessed with Jules. She copies her make up techniques, reads everything she does and talks about her constantly. Unfortunately her real life is not quite as idyllic: she lives with her single mother and their relationship is not a particularly good one, she has a best friend but they are starting to drift apart and even the one person she truly admires, her father disappoints her as well.
As Manda’s obsession with Jules increases, so do the problems in her life, until Manda learns that she has to face reality, which will lead to consequences.
Mitt Elf Isem Iħor examines the false life which can be presented within a computer screen. Although a YouTuber may have problems or be open about then, there still is the impression they said person is coping and that life beyond the channel is just as perfect. The book also is about the false personalities which can be created. The internet allows a person to be anyone and it is easy to take on a character. However, one cannot be divorced from reality, which is something totally different. Throughout the novel Manda expresses how she wishes she could change her name (hence the title), which her way of avoiding her problems.
With Mitt Elf Isem Iħor, Lon Kirkop gives the reader a glimpse of internet behaviour. Not only the falsity of the influencer’s world but also how teens use social media as an escape or to bully: one scene involves Manda being harassed through Instagram and Messenger, another one scene focuses on the nasty comments Jules receives from trolls on her channel. The book is an insightful one and , more importantly, opens the reader’s eyes to the more negative aspects of this cultural phenomenon.
Many thanks to Merlin for sending a copy of Mitt Elf Isem Iħor
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