Book Review - The List

An author, podcaster and journalist, Yomi Adegoke is well placed to explore the permutations of Black British celebrity culture in the digital age. She co-wrote the bestselling self-help manual Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible in 2018 and made the Forbes 30 under 30 list three years later.

The power of social media to make and break you is the subject of her much-anticipated debut novel. Ola and Michael are a young, Insta-famous couple, “the king and queen of #BlackLove”. One month before their wedding, a roll call of men working in the UK media who have been identified as sexual abusers and predators is posted on Twitter.

Michael’s name is on the list, which quickly goes viral. Overnight, reputations are shattered. Michael claims he’s done nothing wrong; Ola, a high-profile feminist journalist at a magazine called Womxxxn, asks him to prove it before their impending £20,000 nuptials. The List is narrated from both their perspectives.

In the following days, their mutual trust is eroded. Once the trial-by-Twitter is set in motion, there is no stopping the online scrutiny and trolling. Michael’s fall from grace appears inevitable: “How could a minority of people be talking about the List and yet it seemed as though the whole world was whispering about him?”

Adegoke immerses us in the world of curated lifestyles, online influencers and cancel culture. She reminds us how the #MeToo movement has been invaluable in supporting survivors of sexual violence, but also highlights certain grey areas such as the potential of online shaming and anonymous allegations to destroy lives.

The List is already being adapted for TV with Adegoke as executive producer. The various cliffhangers and twists suggest it was written with this in mind. It occasionally feels as though she is trying to shoehorn too many characters and subplots into one tale, but we remain invested in her main protagonists’ journey. This nuanced exploration of celebrity culture and online toxicity should win Adegoke new fans.

Originally published by The Observer