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People Like Her


People Like Her

From the husband-and-wife writing team known as Ellery Lloyd comes PEOPLE LIKE HER, a sharply written and tightly plotted thriller about a mommy blogger whose ambitious rise to fame comes with unexpected --- or perhaps all-too-expected --- consequences.

To her millions of followers, instamum @the_mamabare is perfectly imperfect. Sure, she’s beautiful and cool in her bright prints and slogan tees, but she’s also not afraid to be raw and vulnerable with her followers, whether that means sharing a funny post about leaving the house in two different shoes or arriving to a play date with oatmeal on her shirt. But in real life, Emmy Jackson is more like us than even she would admit: Instagram is her full-time career, but she’s actually not all that similar to her online persona. She keeps a pretty tidy house, despite her two young children, and her marriage is not as #OTP as you might expect. No one knows Emmy like Dan, and no one can see through her carefully crafted lies quite as well either. Although Dan struggles to reconcile the woman he loves with the professional BS-er he follows on Instagram, even he cannot deny that Emmy’s posts pay the bills --- especially with his career as a novelist going nowhere.

"With three unreliable narrators, the novel reads like GONE GIRL on steroids in all the best ways, and is sure to keep you distracted from Instagram for a good long while."

For years, Emmy and Dan have kept up the facade of their perfectly imperfect life, with Emmy supporting the family by monetizing the most intimate details of their life and micromanaging everything from play dates to birthday parties and even trips to the convenience store. What starts as a shoe-blogging hobby, a way of not “slipping too far into the postnatal fog,” quickly becomes an obsession. As Emmy tells it, “It felt like a little life-affirming arm squeeze every time I logged on and saw a comment from another mother going through the same things I was. I had found my people.” But Dan tells another story.

In alternating chapters, we get the truth behind Emmy’s bare persona and learn that she is very, very good at what she does. So good, in fact, that she had an agent and a paid domain name long before she ever wrote a post about shoes or babies. So good that coming up with “Short sentences. Metaphors that don’t make sense. Random weirdly specific details scattered around to lend everything an air of verisimilitude. Oddly precise numbers...shoehorned for the same purpose” first written to appear organic now start to come naturally to her. So good that she has attracted some not-so-welcome followers --- men begging to drink her breast milk, women condemning her to hell for bad parenting --- including one very dangerous woman hell-bent on revenge.

Alternating between Emmy, Dan and her sinister follower, Lloyd unpacks the world of influencers and instamums (or mommy bloggers for those of us across the pond) and gets to the heart of what makes social media so dangerous for content creators and viewers alike. Although Emmy and Dan are careful never to post anything that might reveal where they live, a portion of a sign across the street sneaks through a photo for a newspaper article, and draws Emmy’s stalker closer than ever. Before long, it is easy for this woman to figure out where she takes the kids to the park, where Dan sometimes grabs coffee and sneaks in some writing hours, and even where their young daughter will be.

It is obvious that Emmy’s follower has been hurt by her in some way, but Lloyd keeps her motive close to the vest, making this already-suspenseful thriller that much more compelling. Following a kidnapping, a break-in and some seriously scary messages, Emmy and Dan must consider where her career has taken them --- and whether or not Emmy is too greedy for the fame to take a step back.

In prose as addicting as the endless scroll we’ve all taken through Instagram on a Friday night, Lloyd takes an unflinching look at our desperate need to be noticed and accepted by others. While Emmy’s initial goal to be seen as someone who is not perfect seems well-intentioned, even her coolness starts to turn stale when the work behind it is laid bare. As Lloyd shows us, there is a marketability even to imperfection, and the ways that Emmy curates her life are as horrifying as they are can’t-look-away riveting. In one memorable scene, she and her daughter throw all of her toys around and purposely mess up their home --- which has just been visited by a cleaner --- in order to seem more aloof for an interviewer coming by for a puff piece. Like her or hate her, Emmy is a shrewd and conniving character you simply can’t help but respect.

Beyond being a brilliant skewering of social media and influencer culture, PEOPLE LIKE HER is, quite simply, a damn good thriller. Lloyd’s careful use of Dan’s narrative to hack away at Emmy’s spin on the truth will keep you on the edge of your seat, and though she goes unnamed and unexplained for several chapters, the stalker’s perspective adds a chilling edge that makes the book absolutely unputdownable. Though I found her motive to be a bit of a stretch in the end, it certainly speaks to the ways that we idolize influencers and highlights the stark reality of inviting strangers into your personal life. With three unreliable narrators, the novel reads like GONE GIRL on steroids in all the best ways, and is sure to keep you distracted from Instagram for a good long while.

Timely, perceptive and downright chilling, PEOPLE LIKE HER will make you strongly reconsider your next Instagram post --- and hopefully help you see influencers with a clear eye, like it or not.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on January 29, 2021

People Like Her
by Ellery Lloyd