As one of the most popular influencers on social media, Mia Bell has lived her life online for years. With her celebrity dog and gorgeous fiancé, she is planning the ultimate virtual wedding—expensive, elaborate, and entirely paid for by sponsors. But off-camera, her world is far from picture perfect. After being jilted by her fiancé and faking her nuptials to please her sponsors, Mia finally has had enough. She heaves her phone off a cliff, ready to live—and maybe find love—offline for a change.
Mia’s sudden absence doesn’t go unnoticed, especially by techie loner Paige Miller, who hacks Mia’s account and begins impersonating the internet celebrity. Paige has her reasons. Her half sister, Jessica, idolizes Mia and desperately needs something to believe in. If taking over Mia’s online persona is Paige’s only means of connecting to her sister, so be it.
Creating a like-worthy life is more fun than Paige expected. But when she grows too bold and is caught in the act, a fiasco ensues that could forever change Mia, Paige, and the people who love them. Because somewhere amid the chaos is an invaluable lesson—one that only real life can teach.
What is The Bright Side of Going Dark about?
CW: This book discusses suicide and suicide ideation. The book does take the time to point out the signs and signals of suicide ideation, but also describes methods of suicide. Mental health is a major topic in the book as two characters have a family history of depression and anxiety, which both of them struggle with. The author handles the topics openly and respectfully, but if the topics are still triggering for you then this book may be harmful for you to read.
TBSoGD (that abbreviation super amuses me) is about learning to live and take care of yourself. The two main protagonists are Mia and Paige. Mia is an influencer whose rise to fame is still a bit new, and who hasn’t realized how miserable her new life has made her in the past year or two. It takes being left at the altar for her to wake up. Paige is a content controller for Picty–the site that Mia made famous and owes her own fame to–whose mental health has been shoved down into a little box since childhood. As the two women circle closer to one another, unraveling trauma and recovering their mental health, they both learn valuable lessons about enjoying life.
Not only is this book contemporary, I think this is one of the most realistic books I’ve ever seen to tackle social media. Harms did an amazing job of putting in real time and research to figure out just what goes into Mia’s work, as well as how easy it would be to mess it all up.
Tropes: Dogs are the Best
So. There’s a doggy death in this book. It’s deeply personal, tear jerking, and surprisingly important for the story at hand. The death is openly acknowledged from the very beginning, and described at the climax of the novel. Still, very sad!
Plot: Don’t Pretend You Know Someone From the Internet
I really liked that a lot of this novel was about demystifying the people we idolize in influencer circles. Mia’s perspective shows just how much she cares–as an influencer, she still does all her own posting and photography, and she does curate her space to be a positive and uplifting one. She views this as her way to make a positive impact on the world. Paige, on the other hand, doesn’t fathom that Mia is a real person; she sees only photographs and fake smiles.
Kelly Harms is a talented writer, and her stories are beautiful. So absorbing, with such real characters and emotions. I genuinely can’t get enough of her right now. This book is much younger in topic, audience, and characters than the previous book I read by Harms and it’s amazing how seamlessly she slipped into the younger mindset. The mistakes that Mia and Paige make, the way they talk and think, the things they take for granted about life are all spot on for their ages. And Harms clearly does real research. In The Overdue Life of Amy Byler Harms was very knowledgeable about library sciences and theory, and here she is able to write authoritatively on influencers and social media trends. It’s clear that Harms spends a lot of time being thorough and thoughtful on her subject matter and I admire that so much.
I love the characters in this story, how different each one is, and how well they interact with each other. Every person is so human, as well; no caricatures. Mental health is at the forefront of the story, and I thought there were some important messages being brought out: don’t ignore family history, be open about mental health struggles when you need help, be empathetic to others and be kind to yourself!
Once again, Harms writes a stunning build up and then strangely dramatic climax. This book, at least, the main drama of the conflict didn’t come out of nowhere. But it was still a lot of information, action, and dialogue packed into a couple of quick chapters, followed by more time on the wrap up. Maybe the conflicts need to be longer, or less dramatic?
I don’t have any firm criticisms here.
This book was so entertaining, honest, and beautifully written from start to finish. I love the difference in Mia’s perspective–where everything is out on the page–and Paige’s perspective–where she continues to hide as she always has. I thought it was nice to balance the way different characters viewed Mia with Mia’s actual thoughts and feelings, showing that nobody really had a firm grasp on what was going on behind the scenes. Though I preferred Mia as a character to Paige, it was easy to see that a lot of Paige’s mistakes came from a place of trauma and unhappiness that needed the unraveling they got. And I also appreciated that there were some people undeserving of forgiveness in the story, whose redemption was not wrapped up in a neat little bow, but withheld.