Almette Odenthal is famous! Well, a bit. Nowadays you just have to announce your departure with a “rant” video, i.e. a rant against God and the world, lie down on the subway track, and if you’re lucky like 15-year-old Mette, you’ll be back in time being pulled onto the platform, hey presto, you already have 10,000 more TikTok followers.
Nobody needs to know that the whole action was just a rash action, for fear of losing their best friend Yagmur to the cool new classmate from the Ukraine.
It so happens that the older brother of a classmate, Jo, who is in his mid-twenties, surprisingly comes out to her as a fan. And developed a perfect social media strategy for them.
After all, the teenager, who sees herself as more of a “wobbly body”, has influencer potential, yes, even has what it takes to be an “anti-Greta”.
As the “voice of a movement” she could expose the general brainwashing in the ruling “opinion dictatorship” in the networks. Provided, of course, that she lets him give her a little tutoring, not least rhetorically. At first, Lucadous’ protagonist doesn’t know what to make of the inscrutable freak.
Interestingly, the possibility that Jo could be a pedophile doesn’t scare the teenager too much; sexual harassment is already an integral part of their everyday social media life. Ultimately, the decisive factor in accepting Jo’s offer is that Mette receives recognition and attention from the failed student who acts very gentlemanly towards her.
So she actually throws herself into the virtual battle for him. For example, as a dancing “Burka Queen” misleads the crowds of followers in order to unmask the left-wing “Cancel Culture”; a motif reminiscent of Mithu Sanyal’s novel “Identitti”: “The burqa queen is not at all a dancing, feel-good Muslim woman. Instead, it’s a typical German cheese spread.”
Of course, nobody wants to understand that these videos are not supposed to be about Islam, but about “damned freedom of expression”. The shitstorm that followed after Mette’s systematic exposure by Jo was so violent that it almost led the teenager to attempt her next suicide. But it only gets really bad for them after the outbreak of the pandemic.
The second half of Lucadous novel, which begins sometime in 2019, takes place after a small jump in time in the summer of 2020. Mette not only refuses to wear a mask at school. In the meantime, she has become a “figurehead of the New Right”, incites the crowds who are incredulous about the pandemic on Instagram or carries Sophie Scholl quotes through Berlin at demos “for freedom and democracy”.
Without realizing how much Corona is politically playing into the hands of her supposed mentor Jo. And that she becomes the victim of a case of gaslighting. Because the nice Jo is in truth a misogynist Incel who plays his perfidious game with the teenager. He has long thought of a particularly high-profile exit for his “fettemette”, as he calls them on his secret Incel account.
Julia von Lucadou, born in 1982, became known four years ago with her debut “Die Hochhausspringerin”, an impressive dystopia that spelled out the horror of self-optimization that had become ubiquitous.
With “Tick Tack” the author has now presented a haunting contemporary novel that is bursting with current topics, from the combination of misogyny and right-wing thinking in social networks to the anti-corona movement and the division in society.
However, readers should not be afraid of net jargon with all its Anglicisms à la tags, captions and footage. Alternately told from Mette’s and Jo’s perspective, the passages of the self-proclaimed “Memelord” Jo are appropriately written as “Greentext”, a spelling common in relevant forums such as “4Chan”, in which each new sentence is preceded by a quoting “>”.
As the author admitted in an interview, the second half of the novel was created under the impression of all the changes in 2020. The thematic overkill is not good for the work, especially since it seems unbelievable how much the otherwise clever Mette is taken in by the slimy Jo, how willingly she allows herself to be made into his tool and how quickly she also gets into the anti-coronavirus movement upwards.
“Tick Tack” has its strengths where the novel shows how much social media permeates and shapes the world perception of today’s teenagers: “TikTok is an organic add-on to my natural mode of existence, evolutionarily speaking”, the author lets her ego explain narrator.
“Most of the time I have a soundtrack in my head anyway, like I’m moving from scene to scene of the longest film in the world. Every moment deserves its own song. Especially the epic moments of course, but also boring transitions like subway rides, therapy sessions or parent talks that would be edited together into a montage sequence over a good beat.”
Speaking of parents. They waver helplessly between pandering and helplessness. When they finally get wind of the difficulties their daughter is in, Mette can only laugh wearily: “Now it has also leaked out to the common people. I’m spared nothing. Ten days of internet hate and now the analogue upgrade: the parents’ freak out.”