THERE’S A FINE LINE BETWEEN INNOCENCE AND GUILT. AN EVEN FINER LINE BETWEEN JUSTICE AND REVENGE.
Data scientist Laura prefers the company of her books to the real world – let alone that cesspit online. But when her best friend Emily becomes the victim of horrific cyberbullying, she makes it her all-engulfing mission to track down the worst culprits.
Petite corporate financier Suki is about to outshine the stupid boys at her firm: she’s leading the acquisition of Edinburgh’s most exciting start-up. If only she could get its brilliant, but distracted, co-founder Laura to engage.
Event planner Claire is left to salvage the start-up’s annual conference after her colleague Emily fails to return to work. She’s determined to get a promotion out of it, but her boss isn’t playing ball.
As the women’s paths intertwine, the insidious discrimination they each face comes to light. Emboldened by Emily’s tragic experience, they join forces to plot the downfall of all those who’ve wronged them.
But with emotions running high, will the punishments fit the crimes?
A pacy and suspenseful novel with its feet firmly in the #MeToo era. 9 to 5 meets Suits with a dash of Black Mirror.
Hi and welcome to my review of Stay Mad, Sweetheart! Massive thanks to Red Dog Press for the paperback!
Today I’m here to tell you… that I have no idea what to tell you ?
I could tell you that this is a very topical and important book. Who knows, you may be someone who feels it’s important to pick up important books. Frankly, I am not. Tell me a book is important and odds are I’ll run the other way, ‘cause important books are boring and/or pedantic, right? Wrong! Stay Mad, Sweetheart is neither, yet it is important in that it holds up a mirror to society and makes the reader take a long hard look… Yes, I’m talking about #MeToo.
Before you run away screaming, yes I’ll admit I’m pretty much fed up too with books in which women (often all the female characters) are portrayed as victims and men (often all the male characters) as the scum of the earth. I think we can all agree that, regardless of our personal experiences and opinions, #MeToo has been everywhere, and its influence has been felt in the arts as well. It was in the sudden departure of certain actors on Netflix after sexual abuse allegations were made, like Kevin Spacey, who was chucked from his leading role in House of Cards, and producer / actor Danny Masterson, who had to walk away from The Ranch. But #MeToo also left its mark on literature, to a point where I decided never to pick up a novel again if it had even the faintest whiff of #MeToo, because I had simply read too many in too short a time and they all boiled down to the same thing. Then why on earth did I want to be on this tour for a book that screamed #MeToo? Because I had faith in Heleen! I read her first novel, In Servitude, last year and I had a feeling that she would get this right, that she would make the reader ponder by means of a nuanced story. And she more than delivered, ponder I did, and actually, I still am.
In other words, to state that Stay Mad, Sweetheart is thought-provoking would be an understatement. It made me think about the nuances of sexual harassment, it made me question more than a few things that happened to me and people I know and it made me realise that some of those things were just not okay. The crazy thing is, everyone kind of thinks it’s normal, and ignores it, it’s just men being men, boys will be boys hardy har har, when actually… it isn’t, is it?
It’s precisely the fact that Heleen Kist tells the story in such a nuanced way, that makes it so thought-provoking. Nothing is black and white, there are good guys and bad guys, the characters’ opinions clash and morph and as a consequence the reader is tempted into consciously pondering their own opinions.
#MeToo is not the only harrowing and thought-provoking bit of Stay Mad, Sweetheart, it also shines a light on social media and the trolls that come with it, and how detrimental to a cyberbullied person’s mental health this can all be. This is the technological equivalent of villagers forming a mob and picking up their pitchforks and torches, but it’s worse since the whole world can get involved effortlessly, having not only an opinion but also a desperate need to voice it, often in the least eloquent and most damaging ways possible.
Which brings us to the Black Mirror aspect of Stay Mad, Sweetheart: what if data scientists could create a model to reveal who the instigators are? What if a program could determine in offices and social media alike who are the people spreading kindness and happiness, making others feel better, and who are the ones making the work floor or the worldwide web a darker place, spreading hate, making others feel worse, even in tiny ways. I’m not at all tech savvy, but I loved this storyline! And any tech stuff is explained in plain English, suitable for tech dummies like myself, yet not in a way that made me feel stupid (it’s a fine line, people!). I got curious and asked Heleen if she based this on any kind of present-day technology. She told me it’s completely fictional, yet plausible and she had a friendly data scientist check what she’d written, so I think the tech savvy should be able to enjoy this too, knowing the science adds up.
Whichever way you turn it, from its stunning cover hinting at the various aspects of the content to the story itself, Stay Mad, Sweetheart is a gorgeous novel that I enjoyed very much, and an exciting addition to my Red Dog Press shelf, or any shelf for that matter. Recommended!
Well, uhm, I guess I did have a lot to tell you, after all ? Still not enough? Check out the other stops on the tour: