Kids Run the Show by Delphine de Vigan (transl. Alison Anderson): No, they don’t

Cover image for Kids Run the Show by Delphine de Vigan I was a little wary of reading Delphine de Vigan’s latest novel having had mixed experiences with her writing – I loved Based on a True Story, was disappointed by Loyalties and enjoyed Gratitude – but the premise of Kids Run the Show was such an interesting one I put up my hand when I saw it on NetGalley. A six-year-old girl disappears while playing hide and seek with her brother, both stars of their mother’s wildly popular YouTube channel which documents their every move.

This child who was on display from morning to night, the child you could see clad in a tracksuit, shorts, dress, pyjamas, or disguised as a princess, mermaid or fairy, the child whose image had been reproduced unlimited times, had vanished into thin air.  

Mélanie had long harboured her own ambitions for fame, avidly following reality TV shows and even briefly starring in one. By the time she has her first child, she’s on Facebook posting about her son Sammy, thrilled by comments and likes. Two years later her daughter is born. The internet has moved on and by the time Kimmy is old enough to charm audiences, Mélanie has advanced with it, eventually setting up Happy Recess which garners a huge audience and a constant stream of freebies from brands eager for endorsement. When Mélanie lets Sammy and Kimmy out of their comfortable apartment to play, her son returns in distress. Over the next seven days, she’ll be faced with the consequences of her exposure of her children’s lives to an audience whose craving for more equals her own for their approbation. Clara, a police officer assigned to the case, is astonished by this world she knew little or nothing about. Years later, the damage done to these two children who will never know privacy is made clear, and Kimmy decides to take her revenge.

Mélanie was a woman of her time. It was as simple as that. You had to rack up reviews, likes, and stories if you wanted to exist.  

De Vigan switches perspective between Mélanie and Clara, unfolding the police investigation, their thoughts and reactions while sketching in their respective backgrounds. Each is very different from the other: Mélanie’s need for attention blinding her to the effects of her actions on her children contrasts with Clara, rooted in the real world by her parents’ determination to instil her with their liberal values. De Vigan explores the exploitative nature of family channels, both in terms of the children portrayed, permanently robbed of their privacy, and of the child audience subjected to endless product placement and endorsement. The damage down to Sammy and Kimmy is heart-wrenchingly portrayed, and Mélanie is all too believable. It’s a novel with important things to say about privacy and consumption but it’s somewhat laboured, the same points made many times over. Mixed feelings, then, but it left me with a lot to think about.

Europa Editions: London 9781787704893 272 pages Paperback (Read via NetGalley)

18 thoughts on “Kids Run the Show by Delphine de Vigan (transl. Alison Anderson): No, they don’t”

  1. I too find de Vigan a bit Marmite. This one sounds to have an interesting premise, but on the basis of your review, it’s probably a book that I’ll read if it comes my way, but I won’t make an earnest attempt to seek it out.

  2. For some reason I’ve never got round to this author. This sounds like it could be adapted well, maybe I’ll wait for that rather than the book! I’ll look out for Based on a True Story though.

  3. I’ve liked all the books I’ve read by her (in French, admittedly), especially Nothing Holds Back the Night and I have this one in translation in paperback, so look forward to reading it.

  4. Ooh this sounds good overall, a very modern story. I do think it can be problematic allowing children to feature on their patents social media. An interesting premise.

Leave a comment ...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.