Author Allayne Webster is funny. She’s also a brilliant writer, with an ability to draw you within a character’s mind and heart immediately, and to immerse you within their world. I have read a number of her other books, including the brilliant, Sensitive. Her writing style is light and engaging and with Selfie, I couldn’t put it down, reading it in a weekend!
The teenage voice is very authentic and Allayne’s many years of writing middle-grade and YA, as well as her time spent in classrooms and residencies in schools, shines in the way she channels main character Tully. You are never taken out of Tully’s voice and the weaving of the timeless themes of family, grief, friendship and self-belief, are seamless and sensitively presented, alongside the analysis of social media.
The subject of Tully’s friendship crush, Dene, is also perfectly drawn, with the impacts of having no choice in how much of your life is shared on social media by your parents, before you even have a voice, being shown in a very honest and very real way.
Selfie is an honest examination of friendship and the impacts of social media on the lives of all of us, but especially on young people, at a time when they are developing their sense of who they are. When you are a teenager, especially in those years of 13 – 16, you are delicate and impressionable and easily bent out of (or into) shape. Growing up in a social media world of glossy images and fakery, product placement and endorsements, can create turmoil for young people and negatively impact their mental health and wellbeing.
Dene Walker picked me to be her best friend. She had the whole of Tonsley High’s year eight to choose from—and she chose me. Me!
Tully can’t believe her luck. Dene is famous. Everyone loves her. She has thousands of followers online and hundreds of sponsorship deals. Being best friends with Dene Walker is a dream come true.
Tully is soon hardly aware that her long-time bestie, Kira, exists, as she shapes her own interests and cares to be the person worthy of Dene’s attention. And she’s not prepared for the heartache and confusion when Dene’s friendship is not all she imagined it to be.
Selfie is an engaging and very real exploration of social media and the trickiness of separating what’s real from the glossiness of the online world. It’s a tender story about friendship and staying true to yourself.
At its heart, Selfie is about friendship and is a classic coming-of-age story. But Selfie also hits at the centre of what is real and what is fake and what is worth fighting for in the world. It brings the idea of being famous for the sake of it, what ‘celebrity’ really means, and the impact of the world of ‘Influencers’ on young people, into view. This is even harder to understand and even harder to toss aside, when a child is thrust into the social media spotlight by their parents, without a choice.
Allayne has written a very real, very believable and very well-researched story, that is perfectly paced and will keep you reading until the end. It made me laugh out loud many times. It also made me cry – with frustration for Tully, with sadness for her and Dene, and with the joy of self-discovery, loving relationships, forgiveness and the beauty of people admitting when they were wrong and giving each other another chance – proving that it’s never too late, there’s always time.
Selfie is an important book, for all of us, but especially for young people aged 11+. It is an excellent opportunity for discussion about social media in classrooms and Text publishing have teacher notes available here.
Highly recommended for young people and adults alike! Get off your screen and social media feeds and spend a weekend with Tully!