I realized this spring that I have spent far too much time on the internet this past year, for obvious reasons. I suspect I'm not alone. And just like magic, Suzanne Park's Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous came across my desk, a story about a 17-year-old Korean American influencer who ends up in a digital detox camp.
My first reaction was to cringe, worried about how much of my social media self I would see in this book, and how much relative therapy I would undoubtedly require as a result. But feisty Sunny/Sun-Hee Song is such an amazing character that I was laughing out loud by page 10 and wanting to follow her sassy online persona for real.
Sunny was literally born an influencer. Her mother kept up a popular blog when she was pregnant, and thanks to a viral video of Sunny dancing as a toddler, "Goggle Girl" became internet famous. She kept up the persona as she grew older, obtaining almost 10,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel alone. But disaster strikes when she forgets to turn off the camera one afternoon during a live stream and a one-pot brownie cooking video turns into an impromptu zumba show with Sunny in her exercise bra. The scandalously viral #BrownieGate will result in Sunny's expulsion from her posh L.A. private school — unless her parents send her to a digital detox camp, per the principal's request.
Sunshine Farms used to host Christian summer camps. Now their clientele is a slew of internet addicts ranging from fantasy sports and gaming jocks to mean girl instaqueens. Sunny is forced to spend a month in the cornfields of Iowa on this dilapidated-but-historic family farm among these celebrities with no digital devices whatsoever. Except the burner phone she smuggled in because she's in the running for an exclusive influencer contest, and she actually has a shot! But the other competitor is the meanest girl in camp, who also happens to have ten times Sunny's following. And is maintaining her social status worth risking her adorable budding romance with the farm family's youngest son?
Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous was an absolute joy to read. I completely demolished it one sitting. Sunny's adventures are endlessly entertaining and full of fabulous dialogue that will keep you laughing. And when you get to the end, might remember a few things you still want to accomplish that have nothing at all to do with a computer.
I appreciate that Park does not approach social media as the enemy in this book, and for that reason I can heartily recommend it to any young folks who are particularly web-savvy. Sunny reminds readers of the power of internet fame, and the consequences if that power isn't used wisely. She also reminds us that there is some glorious fun to be had IRL.
I also recommend this title to any fans of Kim's Convenience because the snappy dialogue and Sunny's quirky commentary are similarly as fabulous.
Alethea Kontis is a voice actress and award-winning author of over 20 books for children and teens.