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  • Mandy McHugh

Influence, Sara Shepard and Lilia Buckingham: A Review

Oh, how I love Sara Shepard. Diving into an old favorite is like slipping into your favorite cozy sweatshirt. I read my first PLL book over ten years ago when I first started teaching and wanted to dive into the titles that were popular with my students. Oddly enough, I loved the PLL universe. I watched every season through to the end--yes, in spite of plot holes, wild, unrealistic plot points, and a cast of characters that acted more like early 20s than high school bebes.

I was totally a Spencer with Hannah's fashion sense. For all these reasons, I was THRILLED to receive an eARC of Influence. Shepard has proven she's got a deliciously evil handle on upper-class girl world, but I was curious to see how a co-written work would go, especially when the co-author is an Insta-famous "influencer," for lack of a better word. Delilah is a junior influencer, famous for saving a dog from a fire. Fiona is popular, on the cusp of having her first ABC pilot. Jasmine is the trademarked Disney star, with a cult following, tight regiments, and no freedom, who desperately wants to branch out and grow up. Above them all is Scarlet, one of the most popular Insta stars, with millions of followers, a YouTube ship, and a chance to take her fame to the next level. What none of them know is a murder is about to shake their worlds, and one of them won't make it out alive. This book has everything attention-grabbing: fame, money, television, beautiful girls famous for being...well, beautiful. Most importantly, drama. ALL THE DRAMA. These girls have secrets, hold grudges, and play amateur detective when things go south. It has all the makings of a Freeform hit, and with good reason. Shepard and Buckingham create a world of jealousy and beauty that is both realistic and, at times, gross. And when I say gross, I mean how did we get to this point? Where Influencers have as much if not more clout than established Hollywood celebrities. The transition of reality TV from a guilty pleasure to a domestic mainstay is fascinating, and this book would not be possible if it weren't based in truth. How many Buzzfeed articles are devoted to Insta-worthy places? Or people? Or covering the drama between your favorite makeup YouTuber? Rarely do we get a peak behind the curtain, but Influence gives us just that. One point I want to make if you're on the fence, sometimes this genre can be daunting to read. The slang, the conversational tone--I understand that it's not everyone's cup of tea. However, I did not find this annoying or exaggerated. I quite enjoyed the banter between the characters, and the use of slang wasn't overkill, a solid narrative with excellent pacing. I can see this being the new PLL, but I'm hesitant to throw that phrase around because these girls are playing in a different league. Influence is fun, flirty, and scandalous. If you're looking for a lighthearted read, especially in a time when it pays to take your mind off the constant Corona coverage, this is the book for you. Huge thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children's for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review consideration.

 

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