When Leila discovers the Web site Red Pill, she feels she has finally found people who understand her. A sheltered young woman raised by her mother, Leila has often struggled to connect with the girls at school; but on Red Pill, a chat forum for ethical and philosophical debate, Leila comes into her own, impressing the Web site’s founder, a brilliant and elusive man named Adrian. Leila is thrilled when Adrian asks to meet her, flattered when he invites her to be part of “Project Tess.”
Tess is a woman Leila might never have met in real life. She is beautiful, urbane, witty, and damaged. As they e-mail, chat, and Skype, Leila becomes enveloped in the world of Tess, learning every single thing she can about this other woman—because soon, Leila will have to become her. Tess wants to commit suicide but she doesn’t want the stigma clinging to her family so Leila’s task is to pretend she is her for some time after Tess’s death. Will it work?
I like thrillers that focus on dangers of the Internet but this one left me cold and rather disgruntled. Maybe because it often happens, with a debut novel. Leila, oh Leila. How a girl who is supposed to be intelligent can be also simply too stupid to live on so many occasions? The premise was fine, full of really good topics like a debate about assisted suicide and its moral implications but I couldn’t get over Leila’s mistakes.
First of them: her infatuation with Adrian and then her crush on Connor. Adrian seemed creepy from the very start, at least to me; still Leila believed his every word was gospel even though she knew close to nothing about him, his aims, and background. And, what’s even stranger, she didn’t feel compelled to find out. It really sounded off because while preparing for her ‘Tess project’ Leila proved she could be a thorough, dedicated researcher. Then she decided Connor, one of many former lovers of Tess, might be her kindred spirit and she progressed by flirting with him while pretending to be Tess. It was pretty ghoulish in itself but of course Leila had to add stupidity to that mix. Had she enquired about Connor’s situation in life? NOPE. What for? The guy was perfect for her, had the right sense of humour, what else could you demand? And then came the big, teary scene when Leila had to face the truth and I couldn’t muster one ounce of sympathy, not really.
Let’s face it: Leila was not a perfect character. She wasn’t likeable and hardly a relatable one, flat and grey, rather cold and pretty undeveloped when it comes to feelings and emotions. Mind you she was the narrator. Around her you find other people – and these aren’t nice either, selfish, lecherous, self-centered and greedy, almost all of them. I think the plot drowned in that unpleasantness after some time.
While I liked the premise of this one the execution left me disappointed. It’s a pity, it could have been a really good book. Meh. By the way the cover I find pretty meh too and the title doesn’t fit the content but these are minor problems.