Dec 14 2010
Dear Ms. Medeiros:
I think you were one of the first authors I followed on twitter and it was at the recommendation of another reader. I thought your tweets were fun and entertaining. When I first heard of this project, I had some apprehension but I thought if there was an author who could pull it off, it would be you. Ordinarily I wouldn’t mention an author’s off the page activities when reviewing a book but given that your work is based around the construct of a twitter love affair, I thought it relevant.
The entire book is based around a relationship that developed on Twitter. Twitter, for those millions who don’t use it, is a microblogging platform that allows people to share their thoughts and information in 140 characters are less. The great majority of the book is 140 character or less exchanges between the titular Tweethearts, Abby and Mark.
Abby is an author struggling to finish her second book, caught up in the grief of her father’s death, her mother’s health decline, and Abby’s own agoraphobia. Her first book was a huge success and she is left creatively insecure, unsure whether she can recapture her first book magic. Her publicist signs her up for Twitter where she meets, online, Mark Baynard.
In reading this book, I kept wondering who the audience was. For Twitter users, I felt the book was a series of unrealistic of Twitter exchanges. For instance, Abby is signed up for Twitter and Mark’s opening salvo is “U R a virgin.” Upon receiving a request like that, either on facebook or on Twitter, most people are likely to respond with a “block and report”. Further, the first pages of tweets read like a how to manual for Twitter. What is the best application to use; how do you exchange private Twitter messages; and the like. I found these exchanges to be the equivalent of the sexual scenes that are described as insert rod A into slot B.
For non Twitter users, would they really be interested in reading the exchanges of people in 140 characters are less and even more importantly, would any one buy into the idea that a life long romance could be developed from a meeting on Twitter?
What struck me as the most implausible was the artificiality of the construct. The ONLY exchanges Mark and Abby ever have are on Twitter. There is never an email exchange, an instant message conference, or a chat room appearance. They never talk on the phone. Everything is within the 140 character platform of Twitter.
I think artificial is the best way to describe this story. While the individual tweets, for the most part, were cute, the conflict was weak. Their exchanges are mostly lighthearted quips interposed by a few confessions. They were flirtatious but their conversations did not lend itself to any deep understanding or development of deep feelings. Abby, for instance, discovers a deception on Mark’s part and is struck hard by this. I couldn’t rouse any sympathy for her. After all, his opening salvo was “U R a virgin.”
The conversations begin to form a certain rhythm. Every morning, they would great each other with a “what are you wearing” question and every exchange would end with a series of goodbyes concluding with “Goodnight Tweetheart” tweet from Mark. Mark’s latching on of Abby as his “Tweetheart” was strange and never fully explored. Abby’s is the only point of view we are provided. Why Mark fell in love with Abby after a few tweets is a mystery.
Another item that led to the artificiality of the story was its length. The story is 135 pages. The story veered from the cute exchanges to focusing on Abby’s depression (although she never described it as such) creating an uneven feel for the story. The two didn’t blend well together.
I think if this wasn’t a romance and focused more on Abby’s agoraphobia and her fear of real connections, this story would have been more successful because each tweet would have been evidence of her illness. Instead, the romance overtones created a saccharine and overly cutesy feeling which was at odds with the near constant depression and mental psychosis (her career was in the shitter, her dad was dead, her mom was very ill, Abby could barely leave her apartment) Abby exhibited.
I could not get past the idea that this book was a gimmick because so little time is spent exploring the falsity of faces on the internet or the use of social media as a replacement for in person contact, furthering the feelings of isolation and loss.
As a gimmick, it’s not carried out with gusto. The links and pictures don’t appear to work (or didn’t when I typed them in). Not all the tweets are 140 characters or less unless you eliminate all punctuation. In other words, as they appear in the book, some tweets are too long. The book itself isn’t 140 pages (although it is under 140 pages)**. Not all the story is told in tweets. There are sections that are told in narrative form from Abby’s point of view. In other words, if the artificial construct was going to be embraced, go all in.
It’s hard to grade this book. On the one hand, the tweets exchanged were cute although bordering on banal at times. If cute was the goal, then I guess it succeeded. If the book was to help people navigate twitter, then I think it succeeded. As a romance or as an introspective look at how the internet can create distance and false intimacy at the same time, I think it didn’t work as well. From an emotional standpoint, I didn’t care about either character and particularly not Abby. There simply wasn’t enough there for me. It’s not a book I could recommend because at $15.00, that is a lot of money to read exchanges between two people at 140 characters or less. C-
** I was told that the finished copy clocks in at 222 pages. The ARC I had was 135 pages.