From the author of Truth Be Told (formerly titled Are You Sleeping)—now an Apple TV series of the same name—comes a cautionary tale of oversharing in the social media age for fans of Jessica Knoll and Caroline Kepnes’s You.
Everyone wants new followers…until they follow you home.
Audrey Miller has an enviable new job at the Smithsonian, a body by reformer Pilates, an apartment door with a broken lock, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to bear witness to it all. Having just moved to Washington, DC, Audrey busies herself impressing her new boss, interacting with her online fan base, and staving off a creepy upstairs neighbor with the help of the only two people she knows in town: an ex-boyfriend she can’t stay away from and a sorority sister with a high-powered job and a mysterious past.
But Audrey’s faulty door may be the least of her security concerns. Unbeknownst to her, her move has brought her within striking distance of someone who’s obsessively followed her social media presence for years—from her first WordPress blog to her most recent Instagram Story. No longer content to simply follow her carefully curated life from a distance, he consults the dark web for advice on how to make Audrey his and his alone. In his quest to win her heart, nothing is off-limits—and nothing is private.
With “compelling, suspenseful” (Liz Nugent) prose, Kathleen Barber’s electrifying new thriller will have you scrambling to cover your webcam and digital footprints.
Chapter One: Audrey CHAPTER ONE AUDREY What doesn’t kill you makes you more interesting. At least, that’s always been my personal motto, and it was echoing through my mind as I tried to stave off a panic attack on a southbound train to Washington, DC. In this instance, though, it wasn’t helping—largely because I wasn’t sure that the logic held. What if this move actually made me less interesting?
I shuddered and once again considered petting the emotional support Chihuahua currently occupying a quarter of my seat. When I’d extended a hand to scratch behind his ears earlier, his owner—a ferocious woman with a French-tip manicure and wearing a lemon-yellow velour tracksuit—had practically screamed, “He’s working!” The little dog looked to me like he was snoozing, but I was in no hurry to set his owner off again.
Instead, I fished a Xanax from my purse and took another surreptitious photo of the dog. I added “Hour 2” in purple text and a GIF of a small, yapping dog before uploading it to my Instagram Story. Almost immediately, comments from my million-plus followers appeared:
That dog looks like he has it in for you!
Hang in there, Audrey!
The tension that had ratcheted my shoulders up by my ears began to melt, and I finally relaxed into my seat. Comments from my followers were hands down my favorite part of living my life on the internet. My former roommate (and former best friend) Izzy used to say that was because I was a narcissist, but Izzy was the one who couldn’t pass a reflective surface without checking herself out, so, you know, glass houses and all that. Anyway, it wasn’t a love of myself that kept me sharing my world with my followers—it was my love of connection. With a million friends at your fingertips, how could anyone ever feel truly alone?
I started responding to comments about my clothing, nail color, and music in my headphones, but not the one query that kept reappearing: Why are you leaving New York?
Good fucking question.
It was the question that was raising my cortisol levels, the one that had me chewing benzos. I mean, I loved New York. It was the most vibrant city in the world, the most exciting and unquestionably best place to live. For almost as long as I could remember, I’d dreamed about living there. I’d even collaged my childhood bedroom walls with images of the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and dozens of other landmarks.
But now, seven years after I thought I’d found my home, I was speeding away from it on the Amtrak while my belongings simultaneously made their way south on a moving truck. I used to imagine that if I ever left New York, it would be for someplace almost as glamorous: Paris, London, Tokyo.
Washington, DC, had never made that list.
I fingered another Xanax and wondered whether I was making an enormous mistake.
You’re doing the right thing, I told myself. How could taking your dream job be anything other than the right move?
Because the truth was that I had aspired to work in a museum even longer than I had wanted to live in New York. I’d graduated from college with a degree in art history and planned to take a year to work in galleries in New York before applying to graduate school for a museum studies degree—but one year turned into two, and then I kept finding reasons not to apply. I put it off even as I watched the plum museum jobs I coveted all go to candidates with master’s degrees, and so I was stuck working part-time in a couple of privately owned art galleries and volunteering at museums like MoMA and the Whitney.
Last month, though, I had been browsing the job boards and spotted the advertisement for the Hirshhorn Museum’s Social Media Manager position. I could do that, I thought as I read the description. I could totally do that. I excelled at social media. Seriously, how else did a random midwestern transplant construct a minor cult of personality out of thin air? I submitted an application before I could second-guess myself.
When Ayala Martin-Nesbitt, Director of Public Engagement, called to offer me the job, I had momentary cold feet. I’d fallen in love with the world-class museum—part of the Smithsonian system—during my interview, but I’d been less taken with the location. How could I move away from New York? Ayala gave me a day to think it over, and I’d decided to celebrate the offer and talk it out with Izzy. Izzy had been my best friend since grade school and had talked me through decisions ranging from whether to cut bangs to how to confront a former boss who made inappropriate jokes. She’d always steered me straight; I knew she wouldn’t let me down.
But when I’d flung open the door of our East Village apartment, clutching a bottle of Prosecco and bursting with enthusiasm, I found Izzy sitting stiffly on the couch.
Frowning, I set down the bubbles and asked, “What’s up?”
Izzy lifted a few strands of her long, dark hair and examined them for split ends. To her hair, she said, “Russell’s lease is up at the end of the month.”
“Oh, bummer,” I said, hoping this meant that Izzy’s terrible boyfriend and his annoyingly trendy beard would be leaving the city.
“Yeah, well.” She dropped her hair and finally met my eyes. “He’s moving in.”
“What?” I gaped at her. “No way, Iz. You can’t just announce that your boyfriend and his collection of fake Gucci sneakers are moving in.”
Her hazel eyes darkened and she pursed her mouth. “Actually, I can. My name is the only one on the lease, because you were too busy working below-minimum-wage jobs and chasing Instagram fame to qualify as a renter. This is my apartment, and I decide who lives here.”
Her words hit me like a fist in the chest. Over the course of our decades-long friendship, Izzy and I had fought infrequently, and never about money. I had no idea she was harboring resentment for covering a few rent payments years ago. I’d long ago paid her back, and it wasn’t like I didn’t fork out my share these days. Besides, she never objected to accepting the sheet masks, adaptogens, and slow fashion items I got from brands courting me to promote them on Instagram.
“Whatever,” I sniffed, picking up the Prosecco. “I’m moving to DC anyway.”
Izzy blinked, surprised. “You got the job?”
“Yep,” I said, unwrapping the foil around the bottle’s top.
Not too long ago, Izzy would have demanded to know all the details, would not have relented until she’d heard my conversation with Ayala recounted in excruciating detail. She would have stayed up all night with me, discussing the pros and cons of taking the job, thoughtfully helping me reach the right decision. Now, she merely nodded.
“Oh. Well. I guess this will all work out then.”
“Yeah,” I snarled, popping the cork and taking a swig. “Everything’s going to be just fine.”
And it would be. Better things awaited me in DC. That much was finally clear.
Kathleen Barber’s first novel, Truth Be Told (formerly titled Are You Sleeping), has been adapted for television by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine. Kathleen was raised in Galesburg, Illinois, and is a graduate of the University of Illinois and Northwestern University School of Law. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and son. Follow Me is her second novel.
“Relevant and chilling, Follow Me is a compelling, cautionary tale about the lust for social media attention and the dangers of Internet exposure. A must-read!”
– Wendy Walker, bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten and The Night Before
“Follow Me is a gripping, chilling, and relevant deep dive into the dark and scary side of social media. Kathleen Barber masterfully keeps the reader guessing until the mind-blowing conclusion.”
– Robyn Harding, bestselling author of The Party
“A thriller for the Instagram age, Follow Me doesn’t let up until the final twist. It had me looking over my shoulder, closing my social media apps with a shudder, and above all, flipping pages to find out what happened next.”
– Amy Gentry, author of Good as Gone and Last Woman Standing
"Addictive, disturbing, and frighteningly real, Barber ratchets up the tension in this spine-tingling thriller about the dangers of oversharing. Follow Me is one of those rare books that is creepy and suspenseful, while still managing to be a fun, unforgettable read."
– Christina McDonald, bestselling author of The Night Olivia Fell
“Enthralling, terrifying, and all too real, Follow Me is a cautionary tale for the social media obsessed. In this twisty, propulsive thriller, Kathleen Barber is at the top of her game, plumbing the depths of female friendship and obsession, while showing us who we really are, #unfiltered.”
– Kate Moretti, bestselling author of The Vanishing Year
"A chilling take on obsession, self-obsession, and the closing gap between the two in our hyperconnected digital age."
– Jessica Strawser, bestselling author of Not That I Could Tell
“Wow! What a deliciously creepy page-turner. More than just an addictive thriller, Kathleen Barber’s chilling insights about social media and privacy will stay with you long after its last nail-biting pages.”
– Angie Kim, bestselling author of Miracle Creek
"Who hasn’t stalked—I mean, looked up—an old flame, friend, or celebrity on social media? Follow Me is a sharp look at the downfall of inventing better online versions of our own realities. Absorbing, utterly addictive, and possibly the most riveting book I’ve read this year.”
– Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts, ITW Award Winner for Best Novel
“In this twisty thriller about every woman's worst online nightmare, Barber expertly explores complex issues of privacy, voyeurism, and consent while keeping the pages turning with heart-pounding, all-too-plausible suspense.”
– Layne Fargo, author of Temper
"A cautionary tale about the perils of social media . . . keeps you guessing."
Soul-cycling, Pilates-perfected, media-savvy readers will devour [Follow Me]. Barber’s narrative, like social media itself, is as addictive as it is disturbing.”