A young social media mogul incites a war between American millennials and the boomer generation in this novel.
A beautiful teenage girl, known only as Atwood, becomes an internet sensation and builds a commercial empire around her ballooning fame. She amasses a fortune—she eventually starts her own website and peddles a new book and signature perfume—and wins the adoration of millions of millennials, especially appealing to those disenfranchised by a laggard economy and the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the presidency. Atwood surrounds herself with an infinitely loyal coterie of followers and begins to use incendiary rhetoric to pit them against the boomers she interprets as their oppressors. She starts to encourage minor provocations—verbal altercations, for example—between her young disciples and their boomer targets and aggrandizes her wealth by burglarizing independent-living facilities and demanding money from the terrified inhabitants. Those “raids” mark the beginning of an aggressive militarization of what becomes known as Atwood’s Army, an organized force that mobilizes for war after President Trump essentially reinstates the draft. The war claims the lives of 20 million boomers, enough to alter the demographic landscape of the country, before an armistice is reached. The tale is told in the first person by one of Atwood’s recruits—a vaguely drawn character left appropriately unnamed except for when he once dishonestly refers to himself as “Tom.” In the wake of the conflict, he tries to find Atwood—no one even knows if she is alive—while being pursued by the FBI. Wilde’s (The Patriot of Last Resort, 2015) effort deftly captures the resentment that so many millennials harbor for the world they inherited. But the characters are woefully underdeveloped: Atwood has all the depth of an avatar, and the narrator is no less nebulous. In addition, while a fantastical story necessarily departs from the world of quotidian believability, the plot is so unrestrainedly implausible that it devolves into silliness. All the world’s ills are repeatedly blamed by Atwood on sociopathic boomers, whose mental illness, she claims, is a function of long-term lead poisoning. Though under 100 pages and filled with action, the book still manages to feel sluggish.
A captivating fictional premise that becomes stymied by an underwhelming political drama.