Deepfake by Sarah Darer Littman Book Review

Sarah Darer Littman has convinced me to give her a shot. Though I hope the next book I read from her is a little more hard-hitting, it’s been a while since I’ve read a book where I can feel so easygoing and just enjoy myself.

The plot of Deepfake is relatively simple; there are two lovebirds who are also competitors for valedictorian when they graduate, Dara Simons and Will Halpern. No matter who wins in the end, they are not going to let something like that destroy their relationship. Then one day the anonymous school blogger, the one who knows about every nefarious act and has everyone on notification, reveals a video of Dara herself saying Will cheated on his exams to heighten his GPA. This video makes Will under investigation and could possibly ruin his chances of getting into his dream school. Or his dad’s dream school, at least. You might be thinking, if Dara and Will were so great, why would Dara film and release a video like that? Because Dara claims not only did she not release it, but she never filmed it in the first place. The Dara on camera, according to her, is not actually Dara. The thing is, how could it be fake, and if it is, who is out to sabotage their lives?

I don’t think, no matter how old I get, that I’ll ever get tired or be unable to relate to high school dramas. The wonderment of having sexual attraction for the first time and wondering, when something happens, if it could actually work full time. The fear of missing out on all the wonderment all the friends seem to be living full-time in. The feeling of being smaller than the adults in the room still lingering but this time really wanting to be taken seriously. And anyone who’s looking for a book entrenched in the drama of this scandal might be disappointed because a very fair portion of this book instead talks about these high school relationships. A fair bit of this book is in a flashback to what led up to the scandal; how Will and Dara met, why Will’s under so much pressure to get into a specific school, things like that.

We don’t feel like we’re deceived by the title and marketing, though. As we learn about how we got to this point, Will and Dara and their brainiac friends are all worrying about acceptances into swanky colleges, and even if a fair few high school students are fine with starting much smaller than they reach for, the relatability of anxiety is still very much present. I mean, what are you supposed to do if you came up with a goal, and you got rejected from the school you were aiming for before things could even begin? The flashback point of this book isn’t supposed to be anything grander than giving its target audience either a taste of the application road ahead, or a reminder of what it was like for us.

When it comes to the mystery, it goes one step forward, two steps back. I admit I did not see the twists coming, but by the end, there are motives that remain a little unclear. The final realization doesn’t lead to much explanation. Deepfake doesn’t reach the thrills of a school scandal like Karen M. McManus or the horrors of school romance like Becky Albertalli, but it doesn’t exactly fail at having thrills or horrors either. It has its characters, its family, friend, and young couple relationships, its catastrophes, and it brings forward what it can offer with a good enough bite.

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