I’m excited to be a part of the book release tour for Corrie Wang’s debut novel, The Takedown. See below for information about the book, and for
I won’t lie; when I first started reading Wang’s The Takedown, I didn’t like Kyla Cheng. But, that’s the point. She and her friends form the “Mean Girls” clique of a tony private school in a futuristic Brooklyn. She’s privileged, popular, and destined for great things, and she knows it.
But that doesn’t always make for the best situation for a girl in high school, especially when she wasn’t any of those things before the ninth grade. That’s when Audra invited her to the cool kids’ table. The only catch was she had to walk away from her best friend of years, Ailey, in order to be accepted by and included with the popular girls.
And so she did.
Kyla exists in a future version of the US which is even more technologically dependent than we are now, but high school society still functions according to the “there were only two ways to emerge from high school. Scarred or Worshiped” dog-eat-dog mentality. Because of that, I would venture to say that Wang’s debut novel fits the bill for a great YA novel in which many high school students see themselves.
But I saw more than that. Layered within the novel is social critique of a number of facets of our society, but the most significant ones are technology dependence and social constructs regarding male and female sexuality.
The people of The Takedown literally cannot do anything without an online presence or their “personal holographic devices,” and everyone standing near them can see what they do on them. The social media of the age is mainly “ConnectBook,” to which all online activity—and even a significant amount of IRL activity—syncs. You can tag people in pictures and videos without their prior knowledge or consent, and post videos of people they cannot untag themselves from.
Therein lies the conflict of the story: Kyla’s been tagged in an apparent sex video with her English teacher, and she cannot remove the tag. When it goes viral, Kyla naturally receives a lot of unwanted attention, criticism, and fallout.
The commentary on female sexuality centers around the video, and the idea that Kyla, as a straight-A student and member of multiple clubs and organizations, must be a “slut” if she engaged in such behavior. Never mind it wasn’t actually her, never mind that she has perfect attendance and a stellar reputation, and has in-progress applications to Ivy League universities. Only one truth remains after everyone sees the video. As she says later in the book,
“If I’m only sweet and endearing, you’ll never respect me. If I take charge and am in control, you’ll think me aggressive. If I embrace my sexy, I’m a skank. If I embrace my inner dork, I’m ostracized.”
These are lines every teenage girl toes. According to the social construct of gender norms, teenage girls embracing sexuality and actually liking sex is wrong. Kyla’s friend Audra encourages her to use the video in a positive, feminist way to encourage people to challenge people’s stereotypes of girls liking sex as sluts. But Kyla’s laser-vision focus on her future and how the video will affect her chances of being like her idol, President Malin, narrows her vision too much. She talks about a website, Bra & Panties, and says that if her video is included on a website of a “slut in her barely theres…” calling for change is “not fe-mi-anything.”
Wang weaves the social commentary into the novel—infrequent enough to not sound preachy, consistent enough for it not to be an accident, clear enough for all ages of readers to pick up on. Clearly, she takes on our society’s ever-growing addiction to technology in foreseeing its natural, inescapable endgame, our longstanding social constructs and their damaging effects, and the problem with a “one-size-fits-all” approach to feminism.
Of course Kyla learns many lessons about herself, her friends, society, but mainly that “none of us are perfect” at life. After being put through the social media wringer and seeing so many of her immediate goals and future aspirations forced into the backseat, she has the epiphany that “there is no one right way,” and it’s more important to be “happy fifty-one percent of the time.”
About the book:
Title: THE TAKEDOWN
Author: Corrie Wang
Pub. Date: April 11, 2017
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Kyla Cheng doesn’t expect you to like her. For the record, she doesn’t need you to. On track to be valedictorian, she’s president of her community club, a debate team champ, plus the yummy Mackenzie Rodriguez has firmly attached himself to her hip. She and her three high-powered best friends don’t just own their senior year at their exclusive Park Slope, Brooklyn high school, they practically define the hated species Popular. Kyla’s even managed to make it through high school completely unscathed.
Until someone takes issue with this arrangement.
A week before college applications are due, a video of Kyla “doing it” with her crush-worthy English teacher is uploaded to her school’s website. It instantly goes viral, but here’s the thing: it’s not Kyla in the video. With time running out, Kyla delves into a world of hackers, haters and creepy stalkers in an attempt to do the impossible-take something off the internet-all while dealing with the fallout from her own karmic footprint. Set in near-future Brooklyn, where privacy is a bygone luxury and every perfect profile masks damning secrets, The Takedown is a stylish, propulsive, and provocative whodunit, asking who would you rely on if your tech turned against you?
Corrie Wang is passionate about libraries, road trips, and eating all the food, everywhere. Corrie grew up in Buffalo but spent her formative years in Brooklyn, where one of her last paying gigs was managing a three-story nightclub on the Lower East Side.
She currently lives in Charleston, where she and her husband Shuai Wang own and operate Short Grain food truck— named one of Bon Appetit magazine’s Top 50 Best New Restaurants 2016 and a 2017 semi-finalist for a James Beard Award. The Takedown is Corrie’s debut novel.
And fyi it’s pronounced Wong y’all.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE TAKEDOWN, US Only.
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