When I was a teen, I loved Meg Cabot’s YA novels because her early YA often dealt with real teens going through pretty unlikely (but still almost plausible!) situations. A regular D.C. teen girl accidentally saves the president of the United States from an assassination attempt in All-American Girl. A Midwestern teen becomes the student mentor of a teen star going undercover at her high school as research for a new movie in Teen Idol. A regular New York teen discovers her dad is actually the prince of a small European principality—okay, maybe the plot of The Princess Diaries is a little less likely. But I enjoyed reading about characters experiencing fame or a sudden onslaught of attention for things that very likely would never happen to me, but hey, just maybe they could.
I feel the same way now reading books about teens who inadvertently go viral! As someone who went to high school before anyone had cell phones that connected to the internet, the idea of living your normal life one day and having something you do go viral the next day feels like the same kind of fantasy and escapism that Meg Cabot’s book did for me (gulp) 15 years ago. So I’m highlighting five YA books about teens going viral—and how they deal with it!
Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
This is Robin Benway’s debut novel, and it’s not exactly new—it was published in 2008 and I was afraid that people would forget about it entirely until Benway won the National Book Award for Far From the Tree! It’s the story of Audrey, who is obsessed with music. At the start of the novel, she breaks up with her boyfriend Evan—it was a long time in coming, and Audrey knows it’s the right thing, but Evan is devastated. He writes a song called Audrey, Wait! and plays it with his band at a gig they already had lined up…and they immediately get picked up by a record label. Mere weeks later, Audrey, Wait! is topping all the charts and Evan’s band is the hottest new music group in the country. Not only that, but everyone wants to know who Audrey is and how she could be so heartless as to break up with Evan. Meanwhile, Audrey just wants to move on, work a summer job, and maybe flirt with the cute new guy she works with. But all of that becomes increasingly difficult when the paparazzi and Evan’s fans won’t leave her alone.
There are moments where this book feels just a bit dated—mentions of MySpace pages for bands, and the lack of social media platforms we all take for granted. But if you can get past that, this is a really great book about unexpected fame and learning to navigate new and old relationships!
Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi
It’s in the title! This is a thriller about Opal, who is a brilliant coder, able to create almost anything virtually. But she can’t bring back her dad who disappeared when she was 10, leaving her to grow up in a boarding school with only a cryptic message as a goodbye. Now, the world’s premier virtual reality platform WAVE is hosting a contest and the winning coder gets to meet the billionaire founder. Opal needs to win, because the founder knew her dad, and she suspects that he might have murdered him. When Opal’s hacks have her going viral, she finds herself at the center of the world’s attention, trying to figure out how far she’ll go to learn the truth about her dad.
Not Your #LoveStory by Sonia Hartl
Macy Evans runs a YouTube channel reviewing old VHS tapes, a pastime that she hopes to turn into a money-maker so she can leave her Midwestern town. But when she accidentally dumps a hotdog on the lap of Eric, a boy she doesn’t even know, the incident goes viral and suddenly Macy is getting a lot of attention online. It’s a mixed bag—she’s dealing with trolls, but her advertisements have gone up. The only thing is that people want more Macy and Eric content, not her reviews. And Macy actually likes someone else. How far is she willing to go to achieve her online goals, and what will she risk to get there? This book will be out on September 1.
Ship It by Britta Lundin
Claire is a super fan of Demon Heart, her favorite TV show, and she writes lots of fan fiction about the male lead falling for his antagonist. When Claire attends a con and asks the actor who plays her favorite about his character’s sexuality, she’s shut down quickly—and then a clip of the Q&A goes viral! Suddenly, Claire is hired by the show to join them on the rest of their press tour in order to expand upon the conversation about sexuality and hopefully redeem themselves in the eyes of their LGBTQ+ fans. As the show’s lead reconsiders everything he thought he knew about his character’s sexuality and his own, Claire comes out of her shell and tries to figure out a way to make her ship canon.
Making Friends with Alice Dyson by Poppy Nwosu
In this new (to the U.S.) Australian YA novel, Alice Dyson is a studious and shy person who has no plans beyond doing well in school and figuring out her future. But then an unexpected dance-off with the school troublemaker Teddy goes viral, and suddenly Alice is the center of attention—and Teddy keeps popping up wherever she goes. The two form a tentative friendship that just might turn into something more, if Alice can figure out what that means and if it’s something she wants. This book will be out here in the U.S. on September 15.
What are some of your favorite teens going viral stories? Share them with us on our YA Instagram page, @BookRiotYA!