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RamG Vallath

By Suzanne Sangi
Duckbill Books, Chennai, 2013, pp. 223, Rs. 199.00


Suzanne Sangi’s Facebook Phantom has taken the popular teenage concept of ‘Facebook-stalking’ to a completely new level.   The protagonist, Sonali Machado—or Li to her friends—is pleasantly surprised when she finds herself ‘friends’ on Facebook with a handsome youth, Omi Daan. Even though she finds Omi mysterious and strange in the beginning, his winning charm and good looks draw Li strongly to him. Over time, Omi becomes an obsession and she ignores all else for the sake of spending every waking moment with him.   The lighthearted story takes on a strange and dark twist when Li finds Omi invading not only her waking moments, but also her dreams; dark and strange dreams. Finally, Li confides all to her best friends, Neel and Joanne. But is it already too late?   Suzanne takes us through the minds of Li, Neel and Omi in turn, in an intriguing mix of reality and fantasy. As Li gets hopelessly mired in her relation with the Phantom-like Omi, the readers are made to wonder who or what exactly Omi is. The realization comes too late for Li and the delay claims a victim. It is then that Li tries to extricate herself from the clutches of Omi. The only one who can help and support her is her dearest friend Neel Sarathy.   The book dives deep into the mind of Omi, his obsession with Li, Li’s helpless obsession and desire for Omi in turn and Omi’s troubled relation with the dark ‘Void’. Fast paced and gripping the book is also dark and intriguing. There are several points which stand out in the book: In a genre which is obsessed with vampires, werewolves and zombies, Suzanne has placed the theme bang in the middle of what young adults use maximum today—technology. The concept of a handsome stranger that stalks a beautiful girl over Facebook can be any girl’s dark fantasy. But when that stranger turns out to be a chimera, the fantasy turns into something much more sinister.   The character of Neel Sarathy is pathbreaking. Neel is gay. This fact is handled by Suzanne in such a non-judgmental fashion that one feels upbeat and hopeful that the new generation does not suffer from the prejudices of the older generations. The fact that over the course of the book Neel finds himself falling in love with a girl is handled with such ...

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