Sharon Huss Roat's HOW TO DISAPPEAR - A YA Must-Read about Social Anxiety
by Sara Voigt (@meaningfulmadness)
How to Disappear is a YA novel that focuses on social anxiety in a world where social media and popularity are king. Bravo to Sharon Huss Roat for tackling this tough and multi-faceted issue. I haven't read a book that addresses this particular issue in this way. While Roat could have easily made this an "issues" book, she instead creates a relatable character and a setting that is familiar to most teenagers.
Vicky Decker is a high school student who suffers from severe social anxiety, which is amplified after her lifelong best friend, Jenna, moves away. She is incredibly self-aware; however, she is unable to control the panic she feels in social situations. Enter Vicurious, an Instagram persona that Vicky creates to connect with other people online to avoid connecting in real life. As Vicurious's fan following grows,Vicky is faced with living in two worlds—her actual life in high school, and the one that is playing out on Instagram.
"I am breathing. Some days, it feels like that's enough."
What I loved about this book is the acknowledgement that social anxiety is a real and debilitating aspect of life for some teens. I also appreciated the social media tie-in, because fan following and "likes" have become such an integral part of daily life for kids (and let's be honest, sometimes adults). The characters are relatable and believable, and as I read, I didn't feel like I was being preached at about the dangers of social media or the perils of social anxiety. The narrative felt authentic, which I appreciated.
As the book neared its conclusion, I did feel like Vicky's social anxiety issues seemed to clear up quickly and that her saving grace was the attention of a love interest, Lipton Gregory. Lipton's character is likable and quirky, but his relationship with Vicky seemed to help her social anxiety issues a little too quickly which seemed somewhat implausible to me. The last third of the book had some inconsistencies that bothered me a bit, one being the storyline between Vicky and her best friend, Jenna (the one who moved away at the beginning of the story). However, this did not take away from my enjoyment in reading the book or the way I feel about having this accessible to secondary students. I loved Vicky and her story.
I appreciate that there are authors who are willing to tackle this complex issue. Our kids are subjected to similar social situations in real life and on social media, and it is important to be aware of this. Readers of YA will like How to Disappear for its fast-paced story and its window into the overlooked issue of social anxiety. Parents will like it for a glimpse into the world their kids are likely a part of in their everyday lives.
How to Disappear is an excellent YA read, and one unlike other YA books I have read. If you are a lover of YA literature, I think you will thoroughly enjoy Vicky's story. Also, be on the lookout for a mention of this book in an upcoming episode!
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