No Filter by Orlagh Collins

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No Filter by Orlagh Collins

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: An engaging story of first love and family secrets, with characters who develop as you read. Promising debut from Orlagh Collins and we hope she writes again soon.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: July 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1408884518

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Em - Emerald - has led a pretty privileged life. Her wealthy parents have sent her to a posh private school. She's friends with all the right people, as her social media accounts will attest. Everything is sweetness and light in Em's world. Or is it? Equivocation over covering up bullying has put Em in the crosshairs of the school's cool girl pecking order. Friends are suddenly less friendly. There are secrets at home about to turn from secret to open crisis. And when Em's mother overdoses, the dominoes start to topple.

Em is packed off to stay with her grandmother in Ireland for the summer. She is resentful about this and angry at her mother. And her father, busy at work as usual, is little help. But then Em meets Liam and there is an instant attraction. Perhaps Ireland won't be so bad after all. But Liam has his own problems to contend with, not least the weight of family expectation in direct opposition to his own ambitions for his life.

Told in alternating chapters from the points of view of Em and Liam, No Filter is a lovely read. It speaks of first love, so all-encompassing and overwhelming. It talks of the pernicious way that family secrets create the most dreadful crises. And it provides some real, genuine and interesting character development. I didn't like Em much at first. She was quite a superficial girl, more interested in maintaining her place in the pecking order of her friendship group than in standing up to bullying. But she is a forthright and honest girl and ready to self-interrogate. By the end of the story, I was rooting for her all the way. And Liam is just lovely. Quiet and reserved and a little timid, he really comes into his own as the novel goes on.

If I had a criticism it would be about the depiction of social media. Collins has the crushing insularity of it all down pat. Em's life revolves around it and the way it exacerbates peer pressure to be popular and to never put a single foot wrong. But social media is a rapidly changing environment as teens migrate from one platform to another and Collins goes into so much detail - about Instagram, likes, dislikes, filters, you name it - that it will date very quickly. And, knowing teens, those reading the book a year from now will think it was written in the Stone Age. It's a tricky balance, writing about the virtual environments so critical to teen life today but also future-proofing what you say, and I'm not sure Collins has managed it here.

But this is a mere nitpick. No Filter is an engaging story of first love and family secrets, with characters who develop as you read. It's a promising debut from Orlagh Collins, who provides a fresh voice in a busy market. I look forward to reading what she writes next.

You might also enjoy Drawing with Light by Julia Green, a lyrical coming-of-age story that deals with first love and second families. Or Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen - Auden spends a summer away from her overbearing mother and finds more than she ever thought she would.

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Buy No Filter by Orlagh Collins at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy No Filter by Orlagh Collins at


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