Title: Fake Accounts
Author: Lauren Oyler
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Catapult
Source: ARC via NetGalley
Length: 272 p.
Publishing Date: 02 Feb 2021

Snooping through someone’s phone usually turns up exactly what you’re expecting: innocent flirting, nothing at all, details of an affair. But when the narrator of Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts goes through her boyfriend’s phone, she’s shocked by what she finds. Ordinarily anti-social media, Felix not only is running a viral alt-right conspiracy theory account on Instagram but it’s clear that he’s constantly checking the app. Should the narrator even be surprised, though? After all, he’d had to come clean after they met that the person he said he was didn’t actually exist. And so begins Oyler’s wading into contemporary and millennial culture, exposing all of us for the cultivated brands we are (or try to be).

Consensus was the world was ending or would begin to end soon, if not by exponential environmental catastrophe then by some combination of nuclear war, the American two-party system, patriarchy, white supremacy, gentrification, globalization, data breeches, and social media.

Lauren oyler, Fake Accounts

Set in the shadow of the 2016 election, Oyler provides a vivid picture of that contemporary culture down to how user interfaces of apps looked at the time the story was written. But as far as how the world outside an iPhone looked? The narrator doesn’t provide much because she isn’t aware of it herself. The story opens in Brooklyn, travels to DC for the Women’s March, and then Berlin but the narrator’s ability to be aware is limited only to self. Or at least how she’s perceived by other people (with extra attention paid to virtual over corporeal). Big events unfold around her and she interacts with them in a detached way we’ve come to experience most things in the age of COVID: filtered through a cell phone screen. Meeting new people in bars — organically, the way she’d originally met Felix — isn’t something one does. Instead, people need to be vetted and verified through dating apps connected with social media accounts because that’s supposed to give you a better idea of who the “real” person is. Or, who they wish they were. Even as the narrator tries on different personalities (that fit to different astrological signs), you can’t help but wonder if this isn’t just something that’s for fun, but a self-discovery journey that the narrator is worried about taking too seriously. It’s emotionally safer to be casually nihilistic than earnest.

Everything you said or did was probably meaningless and impermanent as well as potentially hugely significant; the effect was that you were both neurotically tetchy and quietly demoralized all the time, constantly justifying your acquiescence to stupidity as relatively minor and in service of a greater aim.

Lauren Oyler, Fake Accounts

Fake Accounts is a book with layers. On the surface, it’s easy to judge the narrator as being self-absorbed and feel some moral superiority. Digging deeper, both into the book and into the self, the book provides a reflection of our (millennials) worst qualities and asks what the hell we’re going to do about it. Can we really continue to fake it until we make it? The narrator certainly thinks (hopes) so.

Dark and funny, Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts is a great criticism of current popular culture.

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