Seventeen-year-old Honor Lo and her tightknit family are reality show celebrities, but life in the spotlight has taken its toll. Their show, “Lo and Behold,” is no longer on the air, so Honor’s parents and older siblings make their money from endorsements, brand sponsorships and book deals. To maintain that cash flow, they must present an image of togetherness and likability, which becomes nearly impossible after Honor’s parents announce their separation. The family becomes the subject of criticism in online forums and gossip magazines, and Honor even cuts off ties with her two best friends because she thinks one of them sold her out to People magazine.
Honor doesn’t want anything to do with a public persona; the pressure of fame has even led to panic attacks. She’d rather make art—miniature clay food—and spend time with her family, even as divided as it is. She meets a boy at school, Caden, who is experiencing his own family dysfunction, but his personal struggles leave her feeling insecure. And just when things are at their worst, the family receives devastating news that alters their whole trajectory.
Kelly Loy Gilbert’s fourth novel is an incredible exploration of celebrity obsession, consumerism and the way even “wholesome” reality TV can exploit children, all told through the story of a loving family that has lost its way. Honor’s mother pushes her kids to maintain their brand and “control [their] narrative,” while her dad constantly speaks like he’s giving a TED Talk. Though some people may deem the Los’ pursuit of fame exploitative, Honor’s parents view their success as an embodiment of the American dream, particularly since Honor’s Chinese ancestors worked tirelessly so their descendants could thrive.
The members of the Lo family feel like real people whom Gilbert has simply observed and described, even as she goes deeper and questions their culpability. For example, how much privacy are they entitled to if they put their entire lives online? Complete with realistic dialogue and achingly wrought emotion, Everyone Wants to Know is a thought-provoking novel about empathy, individuality and toxicity that reminds readers of social media’s power to distort reality, and that behind the accounts are real people whose real stories you know nothing about.