A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Influence, a funny and hair-raising tale of internet celebrity and unintended consequences, is a collaboration between Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars) and teen actor/online personality Lilia Buckingham, who also work together on the Brat series Crown Lake. Material excess rules the day in a glittery, over-the-top, but all too relatable world of perfect public personas, product endorsements, messy private lives, cutthroat competition -- and teen celebrities in way, way over their heads. There are some intense kissing scenes, one between two teen girls. An (entirely nonexistent in real life) internet romance takes a dramatic turn when the woman announces she's pregnant. Occasional strong language including "pissed," "crap," and "s--t." A drunken party ends badly for the guests, especially the one who gets murdered. Sixteen-year-old newbie celebrity Delilah, fortunately, has levelheaded parents doing their best to keep her safe (she's diabetic) and grounded amid the sudden changes in her life. Other teens aren't so lucky, as their parents -- some of whom live off their kids' earnings -- are controlling and bullying. Co-author Buckingham, an internet celebrity herself, is active in opposing cyberbullying, and whether the behavior results in actual murder or some lesser damage and misery, Influence is a vivid look at what can happen.
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What's the story?
Back in Minnesota, 16-year-old Delilah and her BFF were always posting to social media, but when they happened on a burning shed and Delilah rushed in to save a puppy trapped inside, the whole thing went viral, giving her an intro to the world of online INFLUENCE. Now that her family's moved to L.A., she's hoping to build on this foundational fame, so she's thrilled to be invited to an exclusive product-fest by Jasmine, a onetime child star, now 18 and an internet mega-celebrity. There she meets Jasmine's equally famous friend Fiona (perfect on the outside, a nervous wreck on the inside) and also the terrifyingly gorgeous Scarlet, who's mean to all of them, pretty much. When one of them gets murdered, the other three are very aware that they all have plenty of motive, so they set out to find the real killer before suspicion falls on them.
Is it any good?
This is a wild, fast-moving tale of relationships that aren't what they seem, scheming adults, teens with perfect personas and lots to hide, and a naive 16-year-old who gets caught in the craziness. Internet stardom is all fun, games, glitzy parties, and lucrative endorsements -- until somebody gets killed, leaving several teens with a lot of online Influence scrambling to prove they didn't do it. Here's the moment at the mall where Delilah's mom realizes her daughter has a whole life she knows nothing about:
"They peppered her with questions about how they, too, could become influencers, or Instagram stars, or at least a person who was recognizable at the Grove. Delilah deliberated carefully before answering, aware that her impressionable sister and skeptical mother were listening in. 'I think you should just be exactly who you are,' she said. 'Don't try to fit in a box.'
"'And saving a puppy from a burning shed wouldn't hurt, either,' one of the fans cheered.
"The group blew kisses as they left. Delilah turned to her mom and sister, a triumphant grin on her face. Her mother had her arms crossed, but she didn't seem angry. In fact, Bethany finally looked like she understood the power Delilah held.
"She even looked proud."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about internet celebrities, and their relationship with their fans, as seen in Influence and your own online life. Do you follow anyone famous online? What do you like about following them? Have you met them, or any of their other fans, in the regular world?
How would you feel if your whole future, and maybe your family's too, depended on your being able to keep up an act that grew more false by the minute? Could you cope? How?
Do you think it would be fun to be an influencer? Or, are you one already, and speaking from experience?
How do you know whether or not to believe what you see on social media? Or do you care whether it's true or not?
- Authors: Sara Shepard, Lilia Buckingham
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Delacorte Press
- Publication date: January 5, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: April 2, 2021
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