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Watched | CJ Lyons | Reviewed by Ria

*Review copy c/o Netgalley, Image via Goodreads 

In the dark underworld of the Internet, King rules over a domain of cyber-smashing. Using incriminating photos and videos, gained via hacking into computers and phones, King uses these to blackmail vulnerable individuals into doing his bidding involving even more sadistic acts of humiliation for his other ‘clients’.

Jesse is just one victim of King’s twisted game and has so far succumb to King’s demands in order to keep his mother and sister safe. On the brink of desperation Jesse finds hope in a manila envelope, a phone number, and a promise of help.

On the other end of the phone number is Miranda. A young girl who also fell victim to King and lives in the shadows of the humiliation he caused her and her family. One by one she’s managed to track down King’s other victims and prays for the moment when one will finally have the courage to ring the number and answer her message.

Jesse is the first to take the risk, and together they plot to take down King and dethrone him as king of the cyber-smashers, no matter what the cost.

What’s my verdict?

Dark, twisted and harrowing read, Watched takes on very uncomfortable subject matter which is sadly rife in the real world. The plot itself can feel too real at times and is all the more difficult to read in light of the recent iCloud hack and the growing numbers of cases of sexual abuse in the public eye.
Though Miranda and Jesse’s situations are elevated and heightened their emotions and experiences are far too close to reality. 'Watched' showcases two very different depictions of the reality of PTSD. For Jesse, the reeling effects of abuse have him block out any memory of the incident as he channels his energy into revenge and anger. Miranda's coping mechanisms with her past come in the form of her Agrophobia, mental illness and suicide attempts. Though the effect of the trauma they faced is the obvious focus, it's their hope and belief in each other and their drive to keep their families safe that really pushes the plot forward. Often this genre discredits victims as powerless but our two protagonists are already strong willed and as a reader you root for them from the get-go.

Lyons also addresses issues of police misconduct and the difficulties faced by victims with the legal system when prosecuting those at fault. As expressed in the epilogue and following notes from the author, though Amanda and Jesse's stories are wrapped up and resolved, in reality for many victims of abuse and cybercrime their stories never end.

Due to the subject matter, I would err on the side of caution of recommending this read. The topics discussed and even hinted at can be particularly triggering for sexual abuse and emotional manipulation. I do, however, believe this kind of story is incredibly important to read, especially in our hyper connected environment, and it does preach an important message that a victim is never at fault in these situations.

For lovers of…'Looking for JJ', ‘Speak’ and The Butterfly Effect

This post was written by regular reviewer Ria, get to now her here

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