Influence

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Influence Book Poster Image
Wild, fast-moving tale of internet fame, fandom, and murder.

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Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Influence is a window on the supercharged world of internet celebrity, and a road map to its many hotspots and minefields. For kids seeking to break into the scene, it's a crash course in turning yourself into product, and what happens when you do. For parents trying to make sense of what's second nature for their kids, it's a sometimes appalling but informative introduction to an alien world.

Positive Messages

Co-author Lilia Buckingham co-founded an anti-cyberbullying organization, Positively Social, and there's a strong anti-bullying message, with some horrific cautionary examples: fandoms form mobs and make death threats to perceived foes of their favorites; a teen bully in the past causes permanent maiming of her victim; family members whose cushy lifestyle depends on teens' online endorsements browbeat and manipulate them. Sane, respectful parenting is often a rarity in the influencer world, but ultimately prevails.

Positive Role Models

Sixteen-year-old Delilah, instant internet star due to her rescue of a puppy from a burning building, is dazzled to be taken under the wing of older teen influencers; they're all in way over their heads with celebrity, obsessive fans, adults trying to exploit them, and a culture of spying and backstabbing. As story unfolds, they all have good intentions, secret fears, quite a few things they'd prefer to keep quiet -- including several that would blow their carefully crafted online reality to smithereens. Fortunately, Delilah's parents have good sense -- and can deal with the fact that their kid is an emerging star in a world they didn't know existed. Numerous fans, frenemies, and family members who aren't exactly what they seem, for good and ill.

Violence

Someone is murdered; there's no shortage of people with good reason to do the deed. Bullying is a strong theme: anti-bullying campaigns by the online services that are hotbeds of bullying, and in the past a bullying girl caused an "accident" that ended her victim's musical career. That girl herself perished in an incident that haunts one of the characters. A character's father bullies him with physical and emotional abuse.

Sex

A character sees a video of her boyfriend having sex with another influencer, his former girlfriend. A teen boy and girl share a couple of long, intense kisses, one rudely interrupted. Two teen girls kiss, with many life-changing consequences. A teen falls in love with the male partner in a revered online relationship (aka "ship") -- who in fact aren't together at all, but the world doesn't know that, so it gets complicated. In an accidental post that soon goes viral, an influencer says she thinks she's pregnant; drama ensues.

Language

Occasional "damn," "crap," "pissed," "s--t."

Consumerism

Instagram in particular is essential to the story, and it's a rare page that doesn't have a product mention, from Twizzlers to Twitter, as it's all about influencers using all the tools to build their brands and peddle merchandise. But the extravaganza of material excess leads to a lot of trouble as sponsors take control of teens' lives and manufactured reality spins out of control, and consumerism run amok isn't seen as attractive as things unfold.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character sees another (diabetic) character's insulin syringes and snarks "Are you on drugs?" A teen who never drinks becomes furiously upset at a party, gets falling-down drunk -- and wakes up next to a corpse. Booze flows freely at parties.

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.

User Reviews

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There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 14 years old Written bylaceyrae April 2, 2021
This book is amazinggggg but if you want your kid to read it i would make sure they are atleast 13 or over because there are some mature stuff in there that wou... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byO13 March 10, 2021
It has a lot of talk about "hooking up" and drugs, some bad words, and kissing. There is also a lot of parties. Also some girls die unexpectedly, and... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love social media and staying safe online

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