By Ekta R. Garg
April 29, 2020
Release date: April 23, 2020
Rated: Binge it! / 5 stars
A graphic designer discovers that his mobile devices are affecting his health. When he agrees to a digital detox, he discovers just how necessary—and not—technology is to his life. Author Nick Spalding hits every note perfectly in the laugh-out-loud humor novel Logging Off.
London suburbanite Andy Bellows loves his technology. No, he really loves it. But who wouldn’t? Where else but online can you get into a spirited argument about whether an old dairy farm should be developed into housing or find an app that helps monitor bowel movements?
Andy’s really psyched about that one. His Irritable Bowel Syndrome has caused him so many problems. Well, that and the permanent pain his neck—literally—but at least he can fix that with painkillers. And now, with the newest app to join his phone, he thinks he can get a handle on his IBS too.
Things are looking up for Andy until they get locked into place—again, literally. During a graphic design pitch to a hot new London fashion house, Andy’s jaw freezes. Then his IBS kicks in. He manages to get out of the building but not before embarrassing himself enough to last the rest of eternity.
After researching his symptoms online and discovering he could have every horrible condition under the sun, he goes to the doctor who makes a simple diagnosis: Andy’s addiction to technology is to blame. The countless hours he spends with his head tilted in the same direction for his phone or tablet are causing the pain in the neck and his locked jaw. His lack of mobility makes his IBS act up. In short, his doctor suggests a digital detox.
Andy would rather have his jaw sewn into its locked position with fire-hot steel mesh. Then he confides in best friend and journalist Fergus, and Fergus convinces Andy to do it. To make things worse, Fergus decides to do a human-interest story on Andy about his whole detox adventure.
Andy’s more surprised than Fergus when he agrees. After all, it’s only two months. What could happen?
Plenty. Andy bumps into one of his online idols in real life, finds himself in the middle of a duck pond on the way to a job pitch, and discovers that there’s actually a café in all of England that can make his favorite coffee. As he starts to focus more on himself IRL, he realizes that maybe everything online isn’t as amazing as it seems. And maybe some of it is.
Author Nick Spalding keeps the pacing steady from the start. Andy is funny, sweet, a good friend, and genuinely befuddled at how he’s going to manage the detox. In the hands of a lesser skilled writer, the main character could have easily turned into an annoying one. Instead, his strong voice and the tone of the novel will make readers burst into laughter several times.
One of the greatest strengths of the novel is its short length. Spalding doesn’t throw in melodramatic asides or let Andy meander into unnecessary subplots. Also, one of Andy’s greatest strengths is that if he makes a mistake or finds himself out of his depth in a new place, he doesn’t try to lie his way out of it. In a refreshing change, Andy owns up right away to his setbacks and deals with his crisis of conscience head on. This subversion of the typical tropes of the genre will endear Andy to readers even more.
Spalding writes a character firmly entrenched in his British way of life, but readers will find universal appeal in this book. It’s clear the author knows his audience and meets them halfway, yet he still manages to surprise readers with Andy’s choices and the resolution. Anyone who likes a novel that will make them grin from beginning to end will definitely want to check this one out. I recommend readers Binge Logging Off.