Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Mitzi Bytes

Author: Kerry Clare
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Type: Paperback
Pages: 304
Publisher: HarperAvenue
First Published: March 14, 2017
First Line: "Still byting after all these years."

Book Description from GoodReadsSarah Lundy has a secret online life, and it might all come crashing down.

Back at the beginning of the new millennium, when the Internet was still unknown territory, Sarah Lundy started an anonymous blog documenting her return to the dating scene after a devastating divorce. The blog was funny, brutally honest and sometimes outrageous. Readers loved it. Through her blog persona, “Mitzi Bytes,” Sarah not only found her feet again, but she found her voice.

Fifteen years later, Sarah is happily remarried with children and she’s still blogging, but nobody IRL—not even her husband or best friends—knows about Mitzi. They don't know that Sarah’s been documenting all her own exploits, as well as mining the experiences of those around her and sharing these stories with the world. Which means that Sarah is in serious trouble when threatening emails arrive from the mysterious Jane Q. Time’s up, the first one says. You’re officially found out.

As she tries to find out Jane Q’s identity before her secret online self is revealed to everyone, Sarah starts to discover that her loved ones have secrets of their own, and that stronger forces than she imagined are conspiring to turn her world upside down.

A grown-up Harriet the Spy for the digital age, Mitzi Bytes examines the bonds of family and friendship, and the truths we dare tell about ourselves—and others.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: Mitzi Bytes is about secrets, boundaries and betrayal. It's about an anonymous blogger who goes from writing about her own life experiences to including secrets and (not always kind) observations about family, friends and acquaintances. When she receives an email threatening to divulge her identity, Sarah's life comes tumbling down around her. 

Okay, so obviously, I loved that Mitzi Bytes is about a blogger.  Blogging is a big part of my life and I liked how Clare addresses the issue of the anonymity of blogging. How what you type doesn't stay on your blog but is thrown out into the world where those words can hurt others. You don't blog in a bubble and Sarah learns that the hard way when her dual lives as Sarah and Mitzi are forced to converge.  

Sarah was a complex gal. She's definitely flawed, not overly likable and yet I think readers will be able to relate to her on some level. We've all had mean thoughts but never voiced them. Sarah used her blog to share those thoughts but never expected them to hit their targets. Was she naive to think she'd remain anonymous with major book deals under her belt? Yes. I think the big thing that kept me from jumping on the Sarah bandwagon was the fact that she repeatedly justified her often mean spirited words. Just admit that, while the posts were what you thought at the time, they were still mean! And yet, her struggle (and it was a struggle) to realize that not everything was about her felt genuine. She's a complicated gal.

What stood out for me is Sarah's strength which, I believe, she draws from her blog. She used it as a cathartic release as she figured out who she is as a woman, mother, wife, sister-in-law and friend. I think many readers will connect with Sarah and her struggle to maintain her own identity, her strained relationships with her in-laws and her commitment to be a good Mom while the highly competitive/high-maintenance PTA super moms are ready to pounce at any weakness. But, as she soon finds out, her blog is also a weakness when her words are revealed to those around her.

One of the weaknesses in the book for me were the secondary characters.  They were a diverse bunch but very much in the background with the men folk being too thinly drawn. Sarah's husband's lack of backbone and easy acceptance of the fallout was hard to believe and her brother-in-law was a one-sided jerk with no redeeming qualities to be seen.  Not a good day for Team Testosterone.

What readers will enjoy is Clare's humour which is sprinkled throughout.  I also enjoyed the addition of the blog archives as a great way to give the reader more background on Sarah/Mitzi and read the words that got people so upset. Honestly, I liked Mitzi and her posts about women and their balancing act between being a mother, wife, sister-in-law etc. I found the posts relatable as were the sometimes complicated relationships women have with each other. 

As the blurb suggests I was expecting a 'Harriet the Spy all grown up' kind of read ... and it was.  And then it kind of wasn't. The first part of the book builds this tension about Jane Q's identity but then the identity is revealed rather quickly and the focus becomes Sarah's lack of sympathy and justifying her online words repeatedly.

Overall, my feelings for this book are all over the place.  I really liked some topics that were addressed but felt other aspects were lacking. This book raises several issues, specifically relationships women have with each other, the anonymity of the internet and the struggles modern women face making to good fodder for book clubs.

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