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Book club questions of Followers by Megan Angelo discusses all the elements to this novel about social media obsession. There will be spoilers so be sure to check out this spoiler-free review for my thoughts first.
Orla Cadden is a budding novelist stuck in a dead-end job, writing clickbait about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Then Orla meets Floss—a striving, wannabe A-lister—who comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they dream about. So what if Orla and Floss’s methods are a little shady—and sometimes people get hurt? Their legions of followers can’t be wrong.
Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity—twelve million loyal followers—Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is based on a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.
Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.
Book Club Questions for Followers
- After a brief prologue with Marlow in 2051, we meet Orla who is bored at her job writing about celebrities. She spends her time daydreaming about quitting one day and she would be on to better things. How did this impact her decision making when she decides to go along with Floss’s plans?
- In the year 2051, a community called Constellation, Calif., showcases celebrities living every moment of their life for online consumption—a more technology advanced version of The Truman Show. What did you think about this future? Could you see it actually happening? Do you think people would watch celebrities like how it was portrayed in the novel?
- Throughout the novel, there are references to the “Spill.” Did you have a theory of what the Spill actually was? How did it line up to what ends up happening in the novel?
- The readers get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to make an online celebrity with Floss and Orla. Why do you think some accounts seem to take off and generate a huge amount of followers? What are your thoughts on influencer culture?
- Back in the future, the millennial group is middle-aged and experiencing the fog (rapid dementia), which is the result from overuse of smartphones. Not saying that this will happen in the future but did this make you think about your own smartphone usage?
- Now what replaces the smartphones is the “device,” which does everything old phones do and relies on brain waves. What did you think about the device?
- Marlow never felt like she truly fit in with her parents and her environment. She decides to run away and find out the truth about her family. What would have life looked like for her if she stayed?
- Floss’s and Orla’s tactics work and they end up with a reality show with Floss’s boyfriend Aston. Orla starts to get popular among viewers, which causes Floss to remind everyone that Orla is a secondary character. It’s an interesting dynamic between the two of them—do you think they were ever actually friends?
- Orla has pinned for her high school crush Danny for years. He eventually seeks her out and Orla is smitten—ignoring red flags. She eventually realizes that she fell for a version of him and the reality could never match that. Let’s discuss their dynamic.
- Marlow goes to New York and when she’s at an internet archive she tries to search for Orla but it comes up with “Error 404. Not found.” What did you think when you read that?
- Everything changes for Orla and Floss when a teenager girl Anna kills herself. Let’s talk about that.
- Why do you think Orla initially gave up her baby to Floss and Aston? Why did Floss cut Orla out of Marlow’s life?
- Marlow eventually finds out that Orla is living in Atlantis—the former Atlantic City that is completely off the grid and no longer part of the U.S. In fact, that’s where the wall goes. Why did Orla decide to move there? What did you think about the first interaction when Marlow finds Orla?
- Floss also enters Atlantis to find Marlow and eventually reconciles with both Orla and Marlow. Let’s discuss those scenes. What did you think about the ending? What happens next to all the characters?
- Why do you think society is so obsessed with the lives of others? How much do you like to share about your life online? Do you feel there were any lessons about social media to takeaway from this novel?
What to Read Next
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for Followers! Here are some recommendations of thought provoking reads along with links to book club questions.
Such a Fun Age
Another engaging original story that also just published in 2020 is Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. It’s a story about race and privilege—and there’s a social media angle, too. Reading Followers and Such a Fun Age means your 2020 reading year is off to an AMAZING start.
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” and the complicated reality of being a grown up. It is a searing debut for our times.
All We Ever Wanted
So I was thinking about books I’ve read that feature social media and one that also resonated is All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin. The story is about two Nashville families struggling with the fallout of a photo taken without consent.
Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton.
Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.
Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.
Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.
Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.
At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.