Yes, I do sometimes take a break from dark, twisted psychological type books, and when I do, it’s delightfully refreshing to discover a book like Sharon Dempsey’s My Virtual Life! I can quite easily picture my own teenage daughter watching a film version of this while comparing with her BFF’s who has the most embarrassing mother (I don’t even want to hazard a guess as to how I’d fare in that comparison!)
Single mom Stella isn’t sure what she’s done to incur the wrath of the fashion Gods, but how on earth has she landed up with such a socially inept, un-fashion conscious daughter. Meanwhile, her 14-year-old daughter Tara spends her time being horrified by her mother, blogging about what she eats and basically describing her lonely life hiding out from the ‘popular girls’ while her best friend Matt is all googly eyed about the leader of the pack of ‘popular girls’! While Matt tells Tara how lucky she is to have such a cool mom who’s barely ever home, all Tara wants is a motherly mom like Matt’s who asks how her day was while cooking a lovely casserole for dinner!
But instead, she has … Stella, who’s the fashion editor of a teen magazine, and who models herself as an honorary teen in order to fit into her career role. She’s hilarious, outrageous, cringe-worthy, often ridiculous and definitely not mom material. But it is what it is, and one must make the most of one’s situation so they muddle along with Stella commuting between glamorous work life in Dublin, and home life in Belfast, and she comforts herself in the knowledge that she’s doing her best (as are we all) by her daughter by leaving her in the care of the ‘Wildling au pair’, and putting ‘Skype daughter’ on her daily ‘To Do’ list!
As we all know though, life does have a way of catching up with us. Stella is NOT a teenager – a bit of a vacuous adult, maybe, but no longer the carefree youngster she attempts to portray. Tara, however, IS a teen – and a very bright one at that. She’s often the responsible adult in the room, when only the two of them are around! And it’s because of Tara that Stella realises that she needs to face up to her responsibilities and give her daughter the answers to the many questions she knew were eventually going to come knocking on her door. Your past can’t be ignored forever. No matter how much you want it to stay buried, when your child’s future is at stake you go and get that shovel and you start digging things up!
This isn’t the ‘chick-lit’ (how I hate that term!) you might think it is when you first pick it up. It’s not a frothy, inane read either. It goes a lot deeper than that. It’s about relationships, family bonds, friendships, knowing who you are, finding yourself and your place in the crowd, once you discover exactly who your crowd are.
I loved this book. Dempsey’s characterisation is spot-on and she really delves into the heart of each and every one of her characters – even the peripheral ones. I think this was also one of the reasons why I found myself visualising the book on screen as I went along – it really came to life for me. This gets a resounding, 4.5 glittery, extra sparkly stars from me. It’s a perfect book club choice, and a great holiday read too – what am I saying?? Just read the book!! And while it’s classified as contemporary women’s fiction, if you’re lucky enough to have a teen that reads, then I’d go so far as to recommend this for them too (but what do I know? I’m just a mom … to a teen!)
Author Bio: MyVirtual Life is Sharon Dempsey’s second contemporary women’s fiction novel. Sharon is a Belfast-based writer of three fiction titles with four non-fiction health books published. Her crime debut Little Bird was released in July 2017 with Bloodhound Books. A Posy of Promises is the first in a trilogy and published by Bombshell Books.
She facilitates therapeutic creative writing classes for people affected by cancer and other health challenges, and runs a creative writing group for young people, called ‘Young Scribblers’, at the Crescent Arts Centre. She is a creative writing tutor at Queen’s University and Stranmillis College. Sharon studied Politics and English at Queen’s University and undertook a newspaper journalism post grad at City University, London. She has written for a variety of publications and newspapers, including the Irish Times. She regularly reviews books for BBC Radio Ulster. Sharon is working on the follow up to Little Bird and a collection of dark short stories.
Thanks so much to Emma Welton and Bombshell Books for inviting me to read and review this gorgeous book!
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