Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Random House, The Dial Press
Date of publication: November 7th, 2023
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Literary Fiction, Australia, Adult Fiction, Adult, Womens Fiction
A woman’s obsession with her new boyfriend’s dead ex-girlfriend fuels this sharp and honest debut novel, a send-up of modern dating and love
My fingers itched to put his name into the search bar. Once I’d found him, I’d have the cheat sheet.
After fleeing to Melbourne in the wake of a breakup, all Ana has to show for herself is an unfulfilling job at an overly enthusiastic tech start-up and one particularly questionable dating app experience. Then she meets Evan. Charming, kind, and financially responsible, Evan is a complete aberration from her usual type; Ana feels like she has finally awoken from a long dating nightmare.
As much as she tries to let their burgeoning relationship unfold IRL, Ana just can’t resist the urge to find Evan online. When she discovers that his previous girlfriend, Emily, died unexpectedly in a hit-and-run less than a year ago, Ana begins to worry she’s living in the shadow of his lost love. Soon she’s obsessively comparing herself to Emily, trawling through her dormant social media accounts in the hope of understanding her better. Online, Evan and Emily’s life together looked perfect–but just how perfect was it? And why won’t he talk about it?
Perceptive and original, full of both pathos and humor, Search History explores the contradictions and uncertainties of twenty-first century romance. Ana’s journey down the Internet rabbit hole of modern dating asks the question: Which is our “true” self–the one we show to the world online, or the one we keep to ourselves?
At some point after a breakup, the desire to sleep with someone else arrives.Search History by Amy Taylor
Important things you need to know about the book:
Pace: The pace of Search History was medium pace. It did speed up to medium fast towards the end of the book. But the overall pace was medium.
Trigger/Content Warning: Search History has trigger and content warnings. If you are triggered, then I suggest not reading the book. They are:
- Sexual Violence (graphic)
- Infidelity (moderate)
- Toxic Relationship (moderate)
- Misgony (moderate)
- Sexism (moderate)
- Stalking (graphic)
- Car Accident (minor)
- Death (minor)
- Grief (graphic)
- Alcoholism (moderate)
- Alcohol Consumption (graphic)
- Panic Attacks (moderate)
Sexual Content: There is sexual content in Search History. There are a couple of scenes where it gets graphic. Otherwise, it is a fade to the next day, or the author uses general terms when describing Ana getting her freak on.
Language: There is moderate swearing and some offensive language in Search History.
Setting: Search History is almost set entirely in Melbourne, Australia. There is a chapter where Ana visits her father in Bali.
Tropes: Conflict Comes from Interpersonal Relationships, Betrayal/Cheater, Minor Character Death, Plot Twist, Regret, Relationships, Dating
Age Range: I would recommend Search History to anyone over 21.
Plot Synopsis (as spoiler-free as I can get):
After fleeing to Melbourne after her long-term relationship crashed and burned, Ana feels ready to date again. But when the matches on her dating app become questionable (and, in one case, dangerous), Ana is prepared to give up. Then she meets Evan while at drinks with co-workers. Evan is everything she is looking for in a man. He’s handsome, witty, and single. After several dates, Ana searches for Evan’s name online and discovers a huge surprise. Evan’s previous girlfriend, a beautiful yoga instructor, was killed in a car accident. Ana slowly becomes obsessed with Emily and Evan’s perfect relationship and with Emily herself. But with Evan not mentioning Emily and breaking down every time Ana mentions her, Ana begins to wonder if their relationship was as perfect as it seems on social media. Will Ana get the truth from Evan? Or will what is revealed break them up?
Ana: I had mixed feelings about Ana at the beginning of Search History. While I liked her and thought her snark was excellent, I didn’t particularly appreciate that she cyberstalked her ex (and later on Emily and Evan). In the beginning, she came across as needy and obsessive. But, as the book went on and her back story was shared, I began to understand why she acted the way she did. I still had mixed feelings about her social media use, but something resonated with me at that point. Haven’t we all looked up an old or new love interest to see what they are doing? I know I have. So, giving side-eye to Ana was replaced with sympathy and an overwhelming need to take her phone away.
Evan: I thought his appearance in Ana’s life was good. He showed up exactly when she needed it, and they were good together for a little while. I even got why he didn’t talk about Emily (her death was still too painful). But then he started pulling stuff on Ana that made my shady boyfriend’s meter go way up. All I have to say is that Evan isn’t as innocent as he made himself to be to Ana. He left a whole lot out.
Reading Search History was eye-opening for me. I have no clue what it is like dating in this day and age. I met my SO before smartphones were common and dating apps were everywhere. I met him 20 years ago the old-fashioned way: In person. What attracted me to this book was how the internet and social media shaped Ana’s view of dating and then fueled her obsession with Emily and Evan’s relationship and with Emily herself.
The main storyline centers around Ana, Evan, using social media to stalk Emily and Evan, and Ana’s life in general. It was well written. Some of the scenarios showcased didn’t resonate with me, but like I stated above, I last dated 20 years ago. But the feeling behind everything did. Everything Ana did until almost the end of the book wasn’t malicious. She was curious and then felt that she had to live up to something shown through social media. Even with her hearing the truth (and yes, it shocked me), she still felt that she had to live up to Emily’s memory.
A massive twist towards the end of the book involves Ana and Evan’s relationship. I was so shocked when everything went down because, at the time, I had no warning. But, looking back, there were plenty of signs; I didn’t take them as they were.
What I also liked about this book is that it wasn’t just about relationships. It was about healing. Ana had so much to heal from and had so much to heal. It was nice to see her strained relationships become less strained. I also liked that she became more assertive in other areas (for example, her job).
The end of Search History was nice, but what Ana did at the very end raised my eyebrows. Didn’t she learn from everything she went through earlier in the book? I wondered if she would go down another social media rabbit hole.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Random House, The Dial Press, NetGalley, and Amy Taylor for allowing me to read and review this ARC of Search History. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
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