If I Stay is an Indonesian chick-lit – the first Indonesian book I read this year! I don’t read in Indonesian that well, but I will take up the challenge for special people. Last year I read Perempuan yang Dihapus Namanya (Women Whose Names Were Erased) by Avianti Armand, poet and also Cung’s (my second husband) partner in many architectural projects. This year, when Sherry, fellow co-founder of the Mad Tea Book Club sent me her novel, I decided to give it a go. Spoiler Alerts!
First of all, the structure of the book is so poetic, with titles inspired by musical terms and even excerpts of songs weaved into the narrative. You can tell this book is a project of love from the young author. She has even produced it into an indie film on her youtube channel.
Second, the premise is so relevant to this day and age. Karina is a high school girl who is in a happy relationship with her boyfriend Lintang. She also has an anonymous social media account by the name of snowfairy which has 18M followers on the platform called Art & Pages. These days many people of the younger generation go anonymous on social media to protect their identities. This would never have crossed my mind or anyone from my generation. We went on social media to connect with our friends – not to “disconnect”. How interesting.
One day, one of Karina’s anonymous followers starts to stalk and send her threatening notes. Think Phantom of the Opera. He threatens her with one of her private secrets, and with that knowledge manipulates Karina to do things she does not want to do. As someone who has received hate speech on social media, I’ll tell you that this fear is real. It makes me rethink the model of influencers and personal branding.
So how do Karina, Lintang, and her friends (online and offline) deal with this phantom? Don’t worry, it’s an almost happy ending. If there is anything I can change, I’d wish for much heavier punishment for the stalker. For me, this is bordering harassment! I do wish our country has a better justice system, especially when it comes to cyber-harassment or bullying.
All in all, If I Stay was an enjoyable read. Thanks again to Sherry for sending me the book!