I remember witnessing many fights on social media in high school. The lure of social media was not above me : I was giddy with delight when my pictures got a lot of attention. Okay… maybe not much has changed on social media as an adult. Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous by Suzanne Park highlights the trials and tribulations of the social media age.
Our generation is adopted by social media. Much of our social life and achievements rely on the internet as many job opportunities and important community support networks (such as connections to other disabled people) exist that cannot be found elsewhere. Many young kids dream of being famous YouTubers and in the YA novel Sunny Song will Never Be Famous by Suzanne Park Youtube fame is not poked fun at or glamorized.
Sunny Song believes she is not talented enough to excel in an avenue outside of social media, so she relies on the internet for validation and future career opportunities. She went viral on the internet as “Goggle Girl” when she was a child. Her mom uploaded a video of her singing and dancing to Oppa Gangnam Style in swim goggles and a unicorn bathrobe. Capitalizing on her fame, she decided to start a YouTube channel as a teenager. It becomes extremely successful and Sunny’s parents become concerned when they witness their daughter’s hilarious attempt at baking brownies for views.
Sunny Song WIll Never Be Famous beautifully depicts the ways in which humans, and particularly young people, look to the internet when they do not receive validation from their family. Sunny has a complicated relationship with her mother, who disapproves of Sunny’s choices and is often harder on her than she is with her younger sister, Chloe. They both have difficulty understanding each other: Sunny’s creativity and willingness to take risks are foreign to her mother.
Her parents decide to send her to a social media detoxing camp at a farm in Idaho and Sunny cultivates a relationship with the Camp Director’s son, Theo. She also develops valuable friendships with people at the camp who continue to influence her decisions, including a fellow-social savvy girl named Delina. Sunny’s time at camp is pivotal to her character arc: she learns her goals should not be clouded by fame or superficial ideas of success.
Through her relationship with Theo, she learns about gravity. She learns of the importance of being grounded in reality and investing in real relationships. She learns of herself, of her desire to learn Korean, to take swimming lessons, and understands that she has a passion for life that extends beyond social media. Theo also learns from Sunny: he learns to be less judgemental, understands the stigma behind social media addiction, and starts to make more reckless decisions. He helps Sunny set up a pair of old, technology-clueless, retirees that visit the farm after she convinces him to help.
Sunny is a loveable and relatable character. You can immediately emphasize with her when her parents tell her they are sending her to a detoxing social media camp far away from Los Angeles, and fall in love with her tenacity and resourcefulness. Personally, Sunny was also a mirror for my own imperfections: she made me realize it’s important to stop our continuous impulses to check our phones and self-reflect. When Sunny was not constantly on her phone, she had time to analyze every aspect of her life and figure out why she was not in a relationship. Sunny also gains confidence during her time at the farm. She learns she can lead in dance and that she is good at archery.
I believe we can all relate to Sunny’s dilemma: social media has a hold on all of us. We are consumed by our notifications and ignoring the signs around us. I can’t wait until I get a notification for Suzanne Park’s next novel.
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