I received an ARC of Random from the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA. Random is marketed as a novel along the same lines of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and 13 Reasons Why by Jason Asher. I am a huge Lauren Oliver fan, reading Before I Fall made me cry in public – not that crying in public is something I make a habit of doing. Additionally, 13 Reasons Why has been staring at me from my to-read shelf since Christmas. All in all, it seemed like Random would be right up my alley!
Random introduces us to the Hershberger family, currently in a state of upheaval. Sixteen year old Victoria ‘Tori’ has irrevocably changed life forever when she becomes known as a member of the Canyon City Seven. The group of teenagers are being prosecuted for manslaughter following the suicide of a fellow student from online bullying. On the eve before the trial, Tori receives a phone call from a stranger, Andy, claiming to be on the verge of committing suicide. Andy tells Tori he dialed her number at random and it is up to her to prove to him that life is worth living before sunrise. Initially, Tori believes this to be an elaborate prank but as the night goes on it becomes apparent that Tori does hold yet another young man’s life in her hands.
While I find the subject matter incredibly relevant, Random did not pack the same emotional punch as Before I Fall (hence the crying in public) while exploring the motives of high school bullying. I found Tori incredibly irritating and though the novel takes place in less than the span of 24 hours, I didn’t feel Tori exhibit any growth, let alone express any remorse at the death of fellow student Kevin. We live in a world where anyone can hide behind a computer screen and say whatever vile or malicious comments come to mind without repercussions. Leevan attempts to explore the backlash of online cruelty. The chapters of Random are interspersed with facebook-esque posts from the past illustrating the evolution of Tori from her weak attempts to defend Kevin to the eventual acceptance her friends’ online behavior to her ultimate betrayal of Kevin as she becomes a vicious bully herself.
There is a twist at the end of the novel involving Andy that I didn’t see coming and I’m still not sure how I feel about it but I won’t spoil it here. HOWEVER, the final scene SPOILERS!! in which Tori leaves an unanswerable voicemail for Kevin was the most heart wrenching part of the book which did lead to a brief misting of my eyes. Random is poignant must-read for all online teenagers.