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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Review: VIRAL, Helen FitzGerald

"Viral doesn't set out to pull any punches"


So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety six people have seen me online. They include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth year Biology teacher and my boyfriend James.

When Leah Doyle and her adopted sister Su go on holiday together to Magaluf to celebrate their A-levels, only Leah returns home. Her successful, swotty sister remains abroad, humiliated and afraid: there is an online video of her, drunkenly performing a sex act in a nightclub. And everyone has seen it.

Jennifer Doyle, mother of the girls, successful court judge, is furious. How could this have happened? How can she bring justice to these men who took advantage of her dutiful, virginal daughter? What role has Leah played in all this? And can Jennifer find Su and bring her back home when Su doesn't want to be found?


We’ve all seen the pictures of crazy holidays in places like Magaluf. Everyone drunk, people passing out in the street, teenage girls so off their faces that they agree to flash (or worse) so they can win a drinking game.

This is a crime novel that is propelled forward thanks to such goings on. From the controversial first line that seems to have everyone talking (it’s certainly both memorable and to the point) Viral doesn’t set out to pull any punches.

This is a tightly-written, well-paced story that’s sometimes uncomfortable to read. You'll find yourself questioning: What is morally wrong isn’t always illegal, and sympathies are sometimes divided. Who is to blame when the victim is a consenting adult? When the men taking part are only doing it out of bravado, not because they’re enjoying themselves? When there is an entire crowd that could step in and stop a crazy situation, but instead cheer it on? And what of the people back at home, watching, sharing, commenting…?

These are some of the questions you’ll ask yourself while reading Viral, but it’s more than just a book with a point to make. It’s an emotional read, with many twists and turns at its heart.

It’s a shame that by the end it does require the willing suspension of disbelief, and I lost a certain amount of patience. But I think that is mainly because this book had the potential to be more than it is. What it IS though, is a great, fast read that may not go viral, but does deserves to be a hit.

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