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Socially Awkward: A Novel, By Stephanie Haddad

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Haddad, S. (2012). Socially awkward: A novel. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Paperback $9.00, Kindle $0.00, 198 pages

ISBN: 978-1466452787

Author’s Website and Interviews:

http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Haddad/e/B0060XT2NM

http://www.stephaniehaddad.com/fiction/ (does not appear to be functional at this time)

Online Reviews:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15766343-socially-awkward

Annotation: Jen was in too deep but if she came clean about Olivia she risked losing the ones she has tried so hard to keep.

Summary: Jennifer Smith is the epitome of normal. From her name down to her clothes she is ordinary. She is in her last year of grad school, majoring in sociology and spends all of her free time working on her final project; the creation of a fake Facebook profile in order to examine the effects of social media on human interactions. With the stroke of a button she adopts the persona of Olivia Saunders, an exotic model who has lived more in her fake twenty seven years than Jennifer has lived in a lifetime. Although the project is initially an experiment, it slowly begins to consume Jennifer’s life and the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred. While acting as Olivia online, she receives a friend request from her middle school crush Sean. It has been years since she saw him and last time she did it ended horribly. Now here he was reaching out to Olivia, a girl who couldn’t be farther from the real Jennifer. She enlists the help of her older sister Claire, who in life looks strikingly like the fictional woman Jennifer has created, to help her sort out the mess she has created as Sean now is insistent on meeting Olivia. Tom, her sister’s on again off again boyfriend has also begun sending Olivia explicit private messages on Facebook. In order to come clean she will have to risk hurting the ones she loves.

Evaluation: This was an extremely quick read and I felt at times as if I were chatting with a close girlfriend. The writing is very causal in tone and the themes focus on issues that impact most women, feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem. The story line progresses at a fast pace and you aren’t left waiting long to find out how Jennifer’s web of lies will unravel. The character development is a tad bit predictable with the typical “nerdy” girl getting the hunk in the end. However, I felt like the author did a great job of capturing the reality of male and female relationships and the often blurred lines these relationships straddle. It is a great uplifting read and I found myself cheering Jennifer on in hopes that she ended up with the right guy.

Genre: Chick Lit

Appeal Factors: Fun and easy read. The characters are easy to relate to and the story progresses quickly. It is a funny and quirky take on the role social media plays in creating and sustaining relationships.

Read-alike Titles and Authors:

A Total Waste of Makeup by Kim Gruenenfelder

Falling Star by Diana Dempsey

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Awards:

This book has not won any awards.

Booktalk Ideas:

  • Discuss the juicy bits first: Read an excerpt from a passionate encounter between Jennifer and Noah. Then go backwards to fill in the gaps of how they met.
  • If/then scenario: Present the audience with an if/then scenario asking “If Jennifer decided to come clean about Olivia sooner then her relationship with Noah would not have had a setback.
  • Ask questions to spark interest:  How does Jennifer’s relationship with her sister impact her ability to interact with men? Did you think there was something going on between Noah and Claire? How did that make you feel given Jennifer’s actions with Sean?

Book Discussion Questions:

1. Is the fact that Olivia mirrors Claire symbolic? What does this say about the sisters’ relationship? About Jennifer’s perception of her sister?

2. Does the fact that Olivia was created for a grad school project somehow excuse Jennifer’s behavior? Do you fault her less for her actions?

3. Do you think Jennifer was right in exposing Tom’s deceptions? Is Claire’s relationship with Sean relationship retaliation or an act of kindness?

4. Do you feel Jennifer feels more comfortable as Olivia? Does this change over the course of the story?

5. Do you find the ending satisfying or is it predictable? Do you think Jennifer made the right choice with Noah?

I came across this book while browsing Amazon for possible chick lit books to read. I was immediately drawn to the subject matter as I recently wrote a paper about the impact social media has on society. I haven’t read many chick lit books and I knew this would be a quick and easy read. While I was skeptical about the quality of the book’s writing, I was pleasantly surprised and was hooked within the first few pages. I was interested to see how Jennifer’s character evolved and whether the creation of Olivia would have a negative or positive impact not only on her relationships but her self-worth.