There are many online platforms for sharing and creating art. Teens are taking advantage the various mediums of creating and sharing their works. But what happens when your work becomes a smash hit? How do manage instant fame? How do you take advantage of opportunity when it comes your way? Many new teen titles are exploring the effects of being or becoming an online sensation. Teens are relating to these stories both on the artist/creator end of things, and even though they may not gain instant fame, teens still have to navigate similar tricky waters in the day to day of who is a true friend, and how to manage negative comments and bullies.
The following titles are about teens experiencing internet fame:
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
Natasha “Tash” Zelenka has turned her literary crush of Leo Tolstoy to good use. With the help of her best friend, Jack, they have created a web series “Unhappy Families,” a modern retelling of Anna Karenina. When a famous vlogger gives a shout out to the series, it goes viral. Now she, along with the cast and crew, are finding what it means to be a hit sensation and are managing the adoration, and the trolls, coming their way. The instant fame is also creating tensions among the crew. The story is paralleled with Tash, who identifies as a romantic asexual, navigating flirtations coming her way. Admist the fame and romance, Tash is also dealing with her older sister creating distance, her parents announcing a new sibling on the way, college applications, the impending end of the series, and the big “What’s next.”
Bang by Barry Lyga
Sebastian loves making pizza. Not your basic generic pizza, but pizza that starts with homemade dough, recipes he has thoughtfully researched, homemade sauce, and the best toppings and combinations. This isn’t enough to keeps the memories at bay though. When he was four years old, he shot and killed his baby sister, and now has plans to do the same to himself at the end of summer. When Aneesha, a Muslim girl, moves into the neighborhood she encourages him to create a YouTube channel with her about his pizza creations. Things start to shift in Sebastian’s outlook, until the YouTube channel takes off, and he is recognized, and called out for his painful childhood past.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Frances is a British-Ethiopian study machine focused on getting into the best universities. She would happily forego hanging with friends to study, create art, and listen to the YouTube podcast “Universe City,” about a genderfluid student detective, “looking for a way to escape a sci-fi, monster-infested university.” Frances has been posting Universe City fanart online under the name Toulouse, and has just been asked by its mysterious creator to provide some graphics for the show. One night, her friends convince her to a night out where she runs into Aled, the boy next door and brother to her former friend and love interest. Aled lets something slip that makes Frances discover that he is the creator of her beloved podcast. They form a fast friendship and spend the summer working on the podcast together. When Aled’s identity is accidentally leaked on the internet, he blames Frances and severs the relationship. Frances will do what she can to get her friend back.
Online Comics and Gamers
Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
High school senior, Eliza, is the creator of the incredibly popular online comic Monstrous Sea. At school she is a loner, and she keeps her identity hidden, except for two close friends she only knows on the internet and her family. Her family doesn’t quite understand or grasp how popular Monstrous Sea is, and treats is more as a disposable hobby than something serious. When Wallace, a popular Monstrous Sea fanfiction writer, starts at her school, he identifies Eliza as a fellow Monstrous Sea fan, and tries to pull Eliza out of her shell. As the relationship deepens, Eliza struggles with how to tell Wallace that she is the creator of Monstrous Sea. Pressures from the fandom weigh heavily on Eliza, especially as she nears Monstrous Sea’s final chapters.
Draw the Line by Laurent Linn
Sixteen-year-old Adrian is trying to be as innocuous as possible in his Texan high school. He has only come out as gay to his two best friends, but finds release in his art. He has been creating the online comic Graphite, which he posts anonymously. After he witnesses a gay hate crime happen among his high school peers, he does a version of it in his comics. Soon his anonymity is at risk.
Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting it Done by Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser
Told in alternating voices, this memoir tells the story of how the two authors met during a summer program of Girls Who Code. When their final project, Tampon Run, went viral on the internet, it raised their profile in unexpected ways. Soon, the two were having opportunities and choices coming their way.
Internet Famous by Danika Stone
Madison Nakama (Madi) is an online sensation with her online blog “MadLib,” where she watches 80’s movies and comments on them. An internet troll has started to leave nasty comments and threats that might jeopardize her final project for high school. Online friends that are starting to become friends “IRL” come to her aid.
Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (2017 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
After a bad year at Catholic school, genderfluid Riley is starting at a new high school. Being the child of a prominent conservative congressman, Riley tries to keep a low profile. Riley’s therapist encourages Riley to keep a blog about being genderfluid. The blog gains an instant following, and a young trans girl reaches out to Riley, only to face some dire abuse afterwards. Riley is dealing with the news, just as someone close to Riley is threatening to bring to light Riley’s secret.
Serpent King by Jeff Zetner (2017 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten, 2017 Morris Award)
A story of three friends trying to make it through the last year of high school. Lydia, sidekick to the main character, runs a successful fashion blog with national acclaim. Though famous in certain circles outside her small town, most of her classmates mock her for her blog, but it will most likely be her ticket out of the small town.
–Danielle Jones, currently reading Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali