Thursday, August 11, 2011

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

Jake Bergamot is your typical, upper middle class New York City student - he is 15, goes to a prestigious school and likes to party with his friends. At a party, he rebuffs the advances of a pretty drunk eighth grader. But, in the early morning hours, he gets an email with a salacious video attached to it - one that the eighth grader made specifically for Jake and for Jake only. On some level, Jake was honored but on another level, he was absolutely horrified and shocked by the lewd and lascivious video that ended up in his email in box, so he forwarded it to his friend, in part an attempt to get rid of the hot potato. And you can see where this goes. Within a few hours, the video that was private initially has been posted everywhere on the internet and has thousands of hits. As a result of this video gone viral, Jake's and his family's lives are turned upside down.

Schulman's book raises a lot of good themes: privacy in the internet age, shame, gender roles, internet protocol, and how they all intersect with each other and with the law.  I particularly liked how Schulman focused on the domestic impact that this had on Jake and his family - I felt like it wasn't forced and was, somehow, more authentic.  It would have been too stereotypical if Schulman had focused exclusively on the girl that made the video. I also thought that it was really noble for Schulman to attempt to take on such extensive themes and topics as the ones that she has taken on. However, it was a tad predictable in its outcome.  I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style itself - it was quick and not complicated and easy to break into small segments (essential for a mom!).

Get from library but don't add to your own personal collection.

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