“In the same way that a night of sleep put wrinkles in a bedsheet, just being alive took a toll.”
Rin Usami ~ Idol, Burning
Akari is a high school junior obsessed with “oshi” Masaki Ueno, a member of the popular J-Pop group Maza Maza. She writes a blog devoted to him, and spends hours addictively scrolling for information about him and his life. Desperate to analyse and understand him, Akari hopes to eventually see the world through his eyes. It is a devotion that borders on the religious: Masaki is her saviour, her backbone, someone she believes she cannot survive without – even though she’s never actually met him.
When rumours surface that her idol assaulted a female fan, social media explodes. Akari immediately begins sifting through everything she can find about the scandal, and shares every detail to her blog – including Masaki’s denials and pleas to his fans – drawing numerous readers eager for her updates.
But the organized, knowledgeable persona Akari presents online is totally different from the socially awkward, unfocused teenager she is in real life. As Masaki’s situation spirals, his troubles threaten to tear apart her life too. Instead of finding a way to break free to save herself, Akari becomes even more fanatical about Masaki, still believing her idol is the only person who understands her.
This was a really good story, but it felt too short. Just a few more pages could have helped us to better understand Akari’s reconciliation. Having seen the scandal through her eyes, seen how much she’s hurting and struggling to understand, the ending feels too sudden
The obsession and need of fandom is there, as is the lack of understanding and support from her family, that one might expect when a young person is so obsessed with someone unattainable, almost unreal.
It’s sad to see how focused Akari is with her online presence, all but forgetting the real, physical world in which she lives. At the same time, it’s very scary how Akari’s life revolves around someone she’s never met.
But social media can cause us all to become swept up in the lives of others. The essence of the story is well-observed and stark, but it loses its way towards the end and we are left with many questions.
Thanks to Harper Collins for my proof copy. Opinions my own.