Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi
Genre: YA Science Fiction, Gaming, Virtual Reality
Publication: May 21st 2019 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Series: None. Standalone.
Length: 384 pages
Format: ARC from Penguin Random House International
For seventeen-year-old Opal Hopper, code is magic. She builds entire worlds from scratch: Mars craters, shimmering lakes, any virtual experience her heart desires.
But she can’t code her dad back into her life. When he disappeared after her tenth birthday, leaving only a cryptic note, Opal tried desperately to find him. And when he never turned up, she enrolled at a boarding school for technical prodigies and tried to forget.
Until now. Because WAVE, the world’s biggest virtual reality platform, has announced a contest where the winner gets to meet its billionaire founder. The same billionaire who worked closely with Opal’s dad. The one she always believed might know where he went. The one who maybe even murdered him.
What begins as a small data hack to win the contest spirals out of control when Opal goes viral, digging her deeper into a hole of lies, hacks, and manipulation. How far will Opal go for the answers–or is it the attention–she’s wanted for years?
Trigger warnings: This book mentions a lot of sensitive stuff like cyber-bullying, suicide, depression, alcoholism, and sexual harassment for women. If these topics are known triggers for you, I highly suggest that you tread carefully should you choose to read this book and/or this review.
Huge thanks to my friends from Penguin Random House International for sending me a review copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. This did not, in any way, affect my overall opinion of the book and/or the story.
As an avid gamer who has been enthusiastically playing video games for the past 12 years, I am extremely excited to be introduced to the idea of virtual reality gaming or VR in general. I, personally, haven’t tried it yet but I know for sure that the near future’s going to be filled with more innovations similar to that of this one. And so to see it be the central plot of Arvin Ahmadi’s sophomore novel made me all the more ecstatic. Girl Gone Viral offered me a glance into what our future could potentially look like, and as of this moment, I’m not sure if it’s something I’m personally looking forward to. Check out the rest of my review to find out why.
If readers were to dissect Arvin’s book, it would undoubtedly be about friendship, self-confidence, having the courage to discover multiple truths, and acceptance. I love how even if most of the story focused on technological advancements, and how it played such a vital role in Opal’s world, it was still, in it’s core, a story about such basic topics. It tackled mental illness / health and I wasn’t even expecting it. The relationships that Opal formed with the help of WAVE all seemed unique and beneficial to her and her story. I also think that a lot of readers, especially teens who are hoping to go to a good university, could easily relate to Opal Hopper. There were lots of stuff that I took home from Girl Gone Viral, and rest assured that other people would too.
The casting and overall characterization, together with the complex relationships that Opal fostered is another thing that I really adored about this book. Seeing just how confident Opal was, as a young woman who coded, made me really proud and excited to see that the future really is FEMALE. *winks* I love how even though she wasn’t perfect, (oh good lord, is she flawed!) she was still realistic. The way she handled every situation she and her friends were in was, I’d say, predictable, especially for a teen with a lot to lose. Her persistence to find out what really happened to her father, her dauntlessness to prove other people wrong, her willpower to see her plans through, and her overall grit for the life she’s living made her a highly impressionable character for me. And the relationships she formed through WAVE and her school made me feel like she could pass for an actual human. She made mistakes. Lots of ’em. This made her so relatable, and like I said, I hope lots of readers could connect to her the same way I did.
Other than virtual reality, Opal Hopper’s story also focused on a very sensitive topic which is digital data privacy. Way before readers could get through at least a quarter of the story, it’ll be pretty evident that this is so. Lots of stuff that ended up with everyone’s individual data privacy being hacked happened and I, for one, am personally not happy about it. (This is a personal take, by the way. Not an attack on the book or it’s characters or the author.) I consider myself techy and yet there are also times that I’m quite irritated at what technology does to people, including myself, and so I’d like to think that I’m on no one’s side here. And to see the actual consequences of people leaning towards using technology dominantly made me a bit sad. And what I appreciated most about this book is that it made me realize this at an early time. I mean, it’s scary how lots of your own personal information can be found online… even nowadays. And in Opal’s futuristic world, even the real emotions behind your facial expressions can be discovered. I don’t want to sound like I’m against the innovation but that’s… creepy.
“Girl Gone Viral isn’t just your typical YA Sci-fi story. Even though most of it is about the lengths that people would go to just to see individual personalized content, and how much we are willing to compromise our online data privacy for it, Opal’s story is still a contemporary through and through. It puts a spotlight on how much these advancements mean for us and our mental health and security, and it’s as gripping as it is unpredictable. No one other than Arvin Ahmadi himself could’ve pulled this off.”
Check out this aesthetic board I made that’s inspired by Opal Hopper’s story:
Have YOU read GIRL GONE VIRAL yet? If so, then how was it for you? Let me know what you thought down below in the comments section! And if you haven’t gotten yourself a copy of Arvin’s sophomore novel yet, then be sure to do so as soon as possible and come back here to discuss!
Arvin Ahmadi grew up outside Washington, DC. He graduated from Columbia University and has worked in the tech industry. When he’s not reading or writing books, he can be found watching late-night talk show interviews and editing Wikipedia pages. Down and Across is his first novel.
Until the next one!