Helen FitzGerald – Viral


Viral begins with an extraordinary opener, a description of Su Oliphant-Brotheridge performing a sexual act in a nightclub in Magaluf, something that’s totally out of character. A video has been posted online and the views are going up rapidly. This is very similar to an incident that happened in recent years and I was keen to find out where FitzGerald would go with this story.

Su had always been the sensible one on a night out and she’s not going to tell anyone where she is now. She says her sister Leah has always been the rebellious one and it should really be her on the screen. The video is extremely creepy, with a club PR guy also filming, people cheering and the incident is being watched by people Su knows.

Su was adopted and the book delves into her background and highlights some of the bullying she’s experienced at the hands of Leah, with her calling her ‘Chinky’ even thought she’s Korean. The book goes into the family politics, outlining the relationships with her adopted parents, Ruth and Bernard.

After watching the video for the first time Ruth establishes that her daughter has actually been gang-raped in public and sets about taking action. Viral shows the struggle a parent faces, with Ruth and Bernie talking about pushing things forward to help in some way but realising this will keep the story and their lives in the public domain. Their love for Su really shines through and their determination to find her is abundantly clear.

The book tells the story from a number or perspectives, building up a picture of how Su came to be in this situation. It shows the guilt that can be faced by some of people involved and some of the horrific things people can do to each other. It shows the ghastly way that people look at these videos as entertainment and a chance to judge the lives of others. It highlights that an incident like this is not isolated but a common occurrence.

Viral is an excellent thriller that flows at a mighty paces. The themes of revenge and identity are prominent throughout but it also is strong on the background of events and the notion that we shouldn’t be defined by single events in our lives.