Every once in a while, a book comes along that transcends the young adult horror genre and offers something truly unique. Influencer by Bram Stoker award winner Adam Cesare is such a book – part thriller, part horror, and all heart.
The story follows Crystal Giordano and her misfit group of friends as they navigate the treacherous waters of high school, only to be infiltrated by the insidious Aaron Fortin. But what makes Influencer truly remarkable is the way Cesare weaves real-world issues such as social media obsession into his narrative.
At its core, Influencer is a cautionary tale about the dangers of groupthink. Aaron Fortin is the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing, charming his way into Crystal’s friends’ hearts before turning on them one by one. Cesare expertly captures the peer pressure and social ostracism that can come with trying to stand up for what’s right, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. The terror in Influencer comes not from supernatural forces, but from the all-too-real manipulation and gaslighting Aaron uses to turn his friends against each other.
But what really sets Influencer apart is Cesare’s ability to tackle topical issues without ever feeling preachy or heavy-handed. The book takes place in the age of social media love, and Cesare deftly examines the way social media can amplify bullying and toxic behavior. His writing is sharp and witty, with perfectly timed and not over done references to classic serial killers.
Influencer was released as an Audible Original, which makes the book initially only available in audiobook format, is particularly noteworthy, thanks to a stellar cast and perfectly placed sound effects. The voice cast includes Isabela Merced (Alien: Romulus, Superman: Legacy), Christopher Briney (The Summer I Turned Pretty), and Brittany Pressley.
Each chapter switches between the characters, allowing the listener to experience the story from multiple perspectives. Cesare’s writing is so cinematic, it’s easy to imagine the book being adapted into a thrilling film or TV series.
Adam Cesare’s Influencer is a book that defies easy categorization. It’s a thriller, a horror story, a coming-of-age tale, and a cautionary fable all rolled into one. Typically, it take us around 4-7 days to complete an audiobook, not with Influencer. We were hooked from the violent beginning to the very end and completed the almost 9-hour book in less than 24 hours.
Cesare once again proves he can handle the young adult horror genre with ease, or at least makes it look easy.
Adam Cesare is also the author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning Clown in a Cornfield series, the graphic novel Dead Mall, and several other novels and novellas including the cult hit Video Night. His Clown in a Cornfield series gets a third installment coming sometime in 2024 subtitled Church of Friendo. Clown in a cornfield was also optioned for a feature film.
Adam joined the Capes and Tights Podcast on Episode 77 along with illustrator David Stoll to discuss their comic series Dead Mall at Dark Horse and Episode 136 to discuss his novels including Influencer.
This review is a Feature Review during the Capes and Tights Horror Week 2023.