Follow Me by Kathleen Barber

By Ekta R. Garg

March 11, 2020

Genre: Thriller

Release date: February 25, 2020

Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars

A young woman moves to a new city for her dream job and brings her substantial social media following with her. What she doesn’t realize is that one of her followers wants more than just her latest posts on Instagram. He wants her all to himself and will stop at nothing to get her. Author Kathleen Barber offers readers a standard thriller about the dangers of sharing too much of one’s life online in the new novel Follow Me.

Audrey Miller finally has a chance to be a grownup. Despite boasting a million followers on Instagram and dozens of endorsement opportunities, Audrey still doesn’t feel like she’s found her footing with a real job. Even the thrill of living in New York City is wearing off, although she doesn’t let any of her Instagram followers know that. According to the pictures she shares with them, she’s still got the most amazing life ever.

When she gets an offer to become the social media manager for the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., Audrey can’t stop smiling. Not only is the job suited to her talents, but it also gives her a chance to participate in curating museum exhibits (one of her real loves.) She packs her bags and moves to D.C. It helps, too, that her former college roommate, Cat, lives there already. Cat and Audrey always got along well, and Audrey knows they’ll hit it off again once she settles in.

The quick move leaves her with few options for housing, though, so she takes the dingy apartment basement with a mostly absent landlady and her creepy grandson. Even with the broken lock on the gate outside the apartment, Audrey is determined to make the best of things. With Cat and her hot ex-boyfriend Nick around, what’s the worst that could happen?

She finds out soon enough. Someone begins invading her privacy: breaking into her apartment, leaving her flowers, and letting her know that she’s been chosen. What Audrey doesn’t know is that one of her followers has installed a RAT (remote administration tool) onto her computer. Now he can watch her whenever he wants, and he definitely wants to watch.

To him, Audrey is everything. The fact that she’s moved to his hometown is a sure sign they’re meant to be together. Now he just has to find a way to convince her once and for all that they’re soulmates.

Author Kathleen Barber showcases the dangers of sharing too much of one’s self online. Had Follow Me been aimed at the YA audience, its content would have seemed more urgent or relevant. Because Barber writes for adults, however, the book has to work harder to make readers suspend their disbelief.

Too many plot elements feel more like serendipity. While Cat, Audrey’s former roommate, comes across as socially awkward at times, by the end readers will feel like she was added to the story just because another suspect was needed. Also, for someone who spends so much time curating her own life for her online audience, Audrey comes across as shockingly naïve. Had this book released five or 10 years ago, her innocence about the possibilities of online stalkers could be forgiven. In 2020, with enough news cycles and real-life stories about these kinds of incidents available, Audrey’s lack of awareness of the dangers of over-sharing seems like a convenient choice just to make the story move forward.

Barber tries to give all the main characters their due. Chapters alternate between the points of view of Audrey, Cat, and Audrey’s stalker. On their own, the characters sound interesting and their independent story tracks keep the story chugging along. As a collective work, though, the chapters are less successful. They almost seem forced together to bring the story to its inevitable end.

The revelation of the stalker may not come as a total surprise to more astute readers, and the climax seems overdrawn. In one moment, Audrey confronts her stalker. The next moment, everything seems fine. Readers might feel let down by the resolution, but those who like a standard thriller might enjoy this one. I recommend readers Borrow Follow Me.