Source: Review copy
Publication: 16 March 2023 from Bantam Press
My thanks to Bantam Press for an advance copy for review
Melanie Lange has disappeared.
Her father, Sir Peter Lange, says she is a danger to herself and has been admitted to a private mental health clinic.
Her ex-husband, Finn, and best friend, Nell, say she has been kidnapped.
The media will say whichever gets them the most views.
But whose side are you on?
Told via interviews, transcripts and diary entries, The Ugly Truth is a shocking and addictive thriller about fame, power and the truth behind the headlines.
Reading this book is a stark reminder of what a toxic influence social media can be. I was thinking that one element of it was a wee bit far-fetched, until I remembered Princess Latifa. That and other significant moments in this story have a horrible ring of authenticity.
Melanie Lange is a social media influencer. The daughter of Peter Lange, the owner of a successful chain of hotels, she started modelling at an early age and then progressed, through a series of very savvy decisions, into becoming a successful entrepreneur in her own right.
The Ugly Truth is the story of Mellie’s rise to fame, her success, her marriage and then her disappearance. It is told entirely through the reports of her family and friends on Twitter, via a Netflix documentary, in the tabloid press and in transcripts of interviews that Peter Lange undertakes for his ghost written autobiography. This is a book which is very easy to read and all the way along you are asked to form judgements based largely on what other people are telling you. And therein lies the rub.
Because this book is a reflection of what living your life on social media is like. Every second of every day you are invited to pass judgement. On Mellie; on her family and friendsds; on her business acumen and on her marriage and her parenting skills. This is a woman who lives her life in the full glare of a feeding frenzy of tabloids, photographers and social media commentators, topped up by people who just want to associate themselves with Melanie by shouting about her – and it doesn’t really matter that they have no knowledge and very little lives of their own.
Lauren C North has these elements of social media down to a ‘T’. It won’t be new to you, but it does so easily lay bare just how ugly this process is and how quickly and easily it is to rush to judgement.
North cleverly invites us to choose a side, but in the end it isn’t about us. It’s about a young woman who has never had the opportunity to live her life free of judgement by strangers. Of a woman whose whole life is lived in a goldfish bowl even although she has never asked for that. It is a story you have read already in the media because it is the story of Britney Spears, of Princess Diana and Princess Latifa and of others closer to home whose lives have been tragically impacted by the toxicity of an everyday interaction with social media and the press.
The Ugly Truth is very well done and with themes of coercive control and tabloid intrusion, it is one we will all recognise. It is an ugly story and it made me feel horribly sad because there’s a lot of truth in here and yet you know nothing will change the polarity of our discourse on social media and the way the press feeds on that interest in celebrity. It is, perhaps, a little too one-sided, but that’s forgivable amidst so much that feels authentic.
Verdict: An uncomfortable read, but one that whizzes you through, inviting you to think about how you would react and whose side you would be on. It ends with a fitting conclusion and one which ought to give pause for thought. Very well done and with the ring of authenticity this is a cautionary tale that should leave us all reflecting on the part we play in rushing to judgement.
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Lauren C. North writes psychological suspense novels that delve into the darker side of relationships and families. She has a lifelong passion for writing, reading, and all things books. Lauren also writes book club thrillers as LC North. Lauren’s love of psychological suspense has grown since childhood and her dark imagination of always wondering what’s the worst thing that could happen in every situation. Lauren studied psychology before moving to London where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside. Lauren, alongside fellow author Lesley Kara and Nikki Smith, co-hosts In Suspense, a podcast and vodcast for fans and writers of crime fiction.