BRB: Be Right Back by Maree Dawes
Published 2013, Spineless Wonders
BRB is a wonderful verse novel that explores the early days of internet chat rooms and what happens when life on the net becomes more ‘real’ than the trappings of the reality of family and friends. This theme could have become generic internet distrust cliche but Dawes uses the first person to take us inside ‘Bodicea’s’ head to create a complex character with complex reasons for her new found obsession. As another reviewer has pointed out, some will see Dawes novel as an endorsement of the narrative that falling down the internet rabbit warren destroys lives. Really, BRB highlights the truth that we all deep down know- if we don’t get what we need from our everyday lives we will find it elsewhere.
From the blurb:
Partner away and home alone but for the sleeping children, our protagonist joins online chat. She and her family moved to the country and up till now she’s been bored and disconnected from her everyday world.
She battles with online language and protocol and wonders if anyone in the chat rooms will ever speak to her.
Then online life becomes more technicoloured than the real thing…
Told from the first person point of view this verse novel uses the language and shape of online chat, email, fragments and stream of consciousness to take the reader headfirst into the world of online life in the nineties. For those who were there it will recreate the moment, for those who never were it’s a chance to experience the beginnings of social networking with the humour, excitement and dilemmas it can pose.
I should admit here that I am biased. I didn’t grow up using the internet in the nineties, but rather in the late 2000s when teen angst overwhelmed and I struggled to find an outlet for my then deemed ‘freakish’ artistic obsessions. The internet has changed my life thanks to experiences in multiple different fandoms and multiple different internet mediums including livejournal, twitter, tumblr, dreamwidth and various forums. Without these internet platforms, I wouldn’t be the feminist writer I am today. Without chatting on the internet, I would be several friends poorer.
Reading BRB took me back to the heady early days of my teen internet exploration when I’d have enormous forum msn chats with people I’d never met at ungodly hours of the night, write poetry for each other in the Poetry Thread, and in one particular year, experimented on chat roulette with a bunch of other young girls. There is something intoxicating about the ‘freeness’ of the internet and Dawes captures this freedom (both sexual and artistic) through her seamless verse. Written in the awkward stop and starts of internet chats, complete with the jargon language and names and haunted by the black pitted trolls as well as too good to be true knights in shining armour too often found online, this novel struck a nostalgic chord.
BRB: 4/5 inky stars