I’d already read, loved, nominated and voted for Cat Pictures Please, so I was excited when the whole novel on the same premise came out, and bought it the same day (Kobo doesn’t let me pre-order without a credit card, or I would have pre-ordered).
I was right.
I can’t really do this book justice.
I don’t know how the title came into being; there’s definitely someone passing as not entirely themself, but it doesn’t fall under what I think is catfishing — for one it’s not malicious at all, not intended to deceive or defraud someone, only to protect themself and others.
The title aside, it’s a magnificent book. I could have got impatient with the protagonist Steph being a teenager (or indeed any of the teenagers being teenagers) but it all fit so well. The way the teenagers talk online reminds me of my now-adult offspring talking online at that age, only with more familiarity because the story is set in the nearish future, when online is a normal place to be. I don’t know if teens driving a car as if that’s a normal thing is nearish-future too, or just US praxis, but that is actually more alien to me than all the virtual interaction. (When I was a kid I loved to read books set in different countries or in the past, especially if translators or modernizers hadn’t adapted too much, because I read all the things different from what I was used to as fantasy.)
I liked the twist of “paranoid-seeming person isn’t just paranoid, they’re just plain right“, which made the dangerous parts of the adventure so much more plausible. However, if there hadn’t been any danger, any mystery, or especially any romance I’d still have loved the book for the local colour and teen friendship and building of a web of trust. The eventual romance was a nice payoff of the slow, enjoyable buildup, but I don’t think it’s necessary for the book. They both deserve it, though.
And now that I’ve discovered that Naomi Kritzer has also written ordinary fantasy I may want to seek out some of that too, though they’re all in a price range in which I only buy a book if I really want it (like this one, and Floodtide), not get a handful of books casually for a few zorkmids each.