Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi

ARC Review for Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi

Words cannot express how much I enjoyed this book. I went in without any expectations and was instantly sucked in by the themes and parallels to society that I saw. Definitely recommend this near-future technological contemporary!

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Girl Gone Viral blog tour

Hello, world and welcome to my review of Girl Gone Viral as part Penguin’s Blog Tour! I was so excited to be able to read and share my thoughts on this book with you all. Girl Gone Viral is a fantastic coming of age contemporary that includes technology that really roots itself in how tech and social media are a big part of  growing up today.

“Humans are experts in sharing. It started with cave paintings and evolved into books, tweets, virtual reality. […]

We’re complicated beings who hardly understand our own selves, and that’s precisely why we put those experiences out into the world. To find our place in it.”

The book is told in the first person perspective of Opal Tal, a 17-year old coding genius who is determined to find the answers to her father’s disappearance seven years earlier. She’s tried to move on, reinventing herself as Opal Hopper to hide from her past in anonymity, but when a competition comes up with the prize of meeting reclusive tech genius Howie Mendelsohn she can’t help but enter for a chance to meet him and get the answers she is sure he can provide.

WAVE is the latest craze, and you can think of it as the virtual reality equivalent of Youtube. Instead of vlogging on your kitchen floor in front of a camera, WAVE is a full-on production with design and digital avatar viewers when you go live. And Opal stumbles upon some information and her show goes viral with her honest depiction of reality and how the way we portray ourselves online doesn’t line up with how we truly feel. It is a really interesting take on how people put their best version of themselves up on social media, as well as how easy it is for people to hop onto a bandwagon because everyone else is doing it.  The book honestly made me think a lot about my relationship with social media, which has definitely been evolving over the last two years.

“Be careful putting yourself out there; privacy is hard to get back.”

I love the characters so much. Opal, Moyo, and Shane are such a great friend group and I love how they support one another. It’s their senior year and with college applications looming and the pressures of soon venturing into a new stage of life, I think Ahmadi depicted the struggles of teenagers really well. (Also can I just reiterate again how glad I am that social media was not a thing when I was in high school? Because I am forever thankful.)  I felt most connected to Opal and Shane, but I really enjoyed everyone… even Kara grew on me! What was most interesting for me was how Opal’s relationship with her friends evolves as the story progresses, as evidenced by how they interact with her. Her grief and desire for answers makes her selfish and a little difficult to like in that regard but she felt like a real person to me just doing her damn best.

Girl Gone Viral is more than sci-fi: it’s about coming of age in a world rapidly changing & polarizing worldviews. It’s set in a plausible near future with tech that could launch tomorrow. Or very well could exist now but because I’m old and the opposite of hip I don’t know about it but that isn’t the point. Because with a society obsessed with tabloids and the voyeuristic nature of following online influencers, of course there would be paparazzi drones.

Reading this one was especially fun for me because it is set in Palo Alto, CA and there’s so much discussion on the whole start-up/tech culture of Silicon Valley that is relatable as a person that currently lives in the vicinity. A big thing in the tech world is disruption, essentially challenging the way we’ve always done things and making things better.

“Sometimes I wonder if people are right, when they refuse to treat me or talk to me with equal respect, because I’m a girl. Maybe we live in a world where I’m not meant to succeed. A world that actively fights to limit my success. And maybe, in that same world, my dad really did bring his fate upon himself.”

When an investor appears and talks about how gloriously disruptive the show is, I couldn’t help but laugh because she was challenging the careful facades that everyone puts on online. But there are definitely challenges to getting an investor, as our characters discover. Opal struggles to have her experiences and opinions validated by the adults around her, asserting that they know what is best. Considering that she is in a high school for tech geniuses and how much women are underrepresented in STEM fields, I personally appreciated this added discussion because it felt believable to me but also challenges those ideas in the text.

Ahmadi effortlessly crafted a future that parallels society today, using the lens of technology to discuss the post-2016 election Nationalistic world that America has found itself in. Instead of “Make America Great Again,” we have the Luddite “Back to basics” political movement that rises to power against all odds on a platform of “bring the jobs back to people from machines.”

“It all boils down to comfort with the old way of doing things. It boils down to nostalgia.”

It’s a social commentary that I really appreciated that has relevance well beyond the Trump Election comparison. The notion of nostalgia plays a bit role in the rise of nationalism has been sweeping the globe in recent years, but the methods are direct descendants what has been seen throughout history during colonization. The idea that society has been led astray from the time when things were perfect, and this group is the one position to bring back that Golden Era. The problem with a revisionist view of the past is that “better” is not for everyone, and often that idealized history didn’t exist in the first place. In the case of the Luddite argument, it completely disregards all the positives that technology brings society – and that throughout history when jobs have gone obsolete, people find new careers. We no longer have a need for lamplighters now that we have electricity, and we don’t have people phone operators anymore. But what we do need are the people capable of creating and maintaining technology, along with countless other fields.

The pacing of the book is solid, building in tension towards the revelations but the ending did feel a little rushed compared to the rest of the book. The main mystery of what happened to Opal’s father is revealed but the ending of the book is left a bit too open for my tastes. My one complaint is that the book doesn’t feel like a standalone, it actually feels like the ending was a set-up for a sequel. I just feel like there was so much development on the political front to have it end where it did! But the fact that  created a world that I cannot get enough of is impressive and I truly hope that he writes more.

Overall, I loved this book so much! I found it to be fast-paced and engaging, with a good balance between making me think and being about the characters. I wouldn’t call this quiet YA at all, but the characters do each deal with their own internalized struggles of wanting to be good enough and succeed. I highly recommend this one and don’t think that the technology is too advanced to deter people that typically shy away from science fiction.

REPRESENTATION:  black rep (Nigerian), depression rep (Shane), women in STEM
CONTENT WARNINGS: alcoholism, cyber bullying, depression, loss of a parent, on-page death, suicide

Many thanks to Penguin Teen for sending me an ARC for my honest review and letting me participate in the blog tour! Quotes are taken from an unfinished ARC and may not match final publication.

Goodreads Synopsis

Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi coverFor 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?

About the Author

Arvin Ahmadi's author photo

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, followed by Girl Gone Viral.


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Hi! I’m Kaleena: book lover, runner, wanderer, and philanthropist. Life is an adventurous gift: through the outdoors and books. I run Reader Voracious Blog, where I post spoiler-free book reviews of science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, and mystery & thriller.

26 thoughts on “Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi

  1. Excellent review as always! I’ve definitely been wondering about this book. Saw it in a catalogue for possible purchases for our library here at school and it’s starting to get a thumbs up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Kayla! I know what you mean: Opal was selfish and very difficult to want to like for a lot of the book. It was really hard for me to see her friends suffering on the sidelines and her being completely oblivious, BUT she won me over with her development after realizing that she had been a terrible friend.

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    1. I believe one of the comps for the book is Warcross! I haven’t read it yet, it’s taunting me from my shelf, so I can’t speak to how good that comp is, but I enjoyed the book all the same! I hope you enjoy it if you do pick it up.

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  2. What a wonderful review Kaleena! You explained all the points perfectly. Glad that we both enjoyed this 😊 I too wish that the ending was done in a better way. But yeah the world-building was amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Simant! I am really glad we both enjoyed this one as well, I found it to be a fun and delightful read… I just hope there’s more in the world coming because I want to know what is next for Opal and her friends.

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    1. Thank you so much, that means a lot to me! I think this is a good read for people that generally aren’t into science fiction, actually. Some readers said that it took them a bit to get accustomed to the technology but I didn’t find that to be the case since it was all logical next steps to current tech, but I think that would be the main hurdle.

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  3. Great review!! I thought this book would be about another internet sensation literally going viral lol. But it seems deeper than I’d realized. Fascinating!!

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    1. Thank you, Danielle! And the book is largely about that, actually – the plot centers around her VR show going viral but is really about the truths she uncovers about the relationship we have with technology and what happened with her father. It does have really interesting parallels to Youtube sensations, though!

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  4. I kinda started noticing lately that i sort of started losing touch with new technology. And then i thought, that’s it, i officially started getting old, lol 😀
    This book sounds super cool, so obvi added it to my list. Any sci fi that feels like the story can happen right now, or very soon is always scary!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. SAME! I think when I started being out of the loop on new internet slang and apps was when I realized I was getting old. Which is fine because I love my 30s, but it is still a little weird! I am glad this book sounds good to you, and I agree that near-future dystopias creep me out. Happy reading!

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  5. I’ve actually put this on my Amazon wish list, like I’m ready for it, the blurb had me lol but it’s always comforting when someone has read the book and really liked it and your recs have yet to lead me astray so I’m excited to see how much I love this one when it comes out! Great review, yet again!

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  6. HELL YES women in STEM! I’m so excited for this book! I always look at your reviews to see what books I should read and this is a definite yes 😀 Amazing review!

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