Score: 93/100 (9.3 out of 10)
Freeze Frame by Tyler Beauchamp surprised us with its wit and uniqueness!
This novel is probably the most “modern” fiction novel we've read, especially in so far as it explores a niche that—despite its extreme popularity with the younger demographic (i.e. millennials and Generation Z)—is rarely ever explored in detail by novelists. That niche is content creation for the Internet, particularly influencer & stunt videos for YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.
These things are HUGE in this day and age, although not without their controversy (as the author explores). The closest we saw to a novel exploring this niche is from I Love You Just the Way You Are by Riley Ryan. In that novel, one of the main LGBTQ+ protagonists happened to be a Twitch streamer, and that actually played into a plot somewhat. There's an LGBTQ+ couple in this novel too, which might be an added plus for that audience, but that's beside the point.
The point is, why don't authors explore these influencer/content-creator themes more the way that Tyler Beauchamp and Riley Ryan have? The truth might just be that authors, especially those with a lot of reach, tend to be of a slightly older generation who mostly use social media as a means to stay connected with loved ones and to market their books. Let's face it.
Something we love about this book is that it really seems to come from a place of passion and experience. You can really tell that the author cares about video content creation and videography. You can tell that they were probably one of those people who grabbed a Sony handheld camera as soon as it went on sale so they could start filming home videos (something like James Rolfe, the Angry Video Game Nerd).
Well, this author kinda lucked out, we're content creators ourselves who empathize with all the ups and downs that Will (the protagonist) and his content-creating friends, Todd and Sabrina, go through. We also understand the other side of things. We know what it's like to compete against other content-creators trying to drive into our lane like Rodrigo and the Rod Squad does. Heck, we just had YouTuber drama in which two YouTubers tried to film in the same haunt Shining hotel only to get into a squabble about it. YouTuber drama happens all the time. You ever heard of Wings of Redemption? Jason Blaha? (We love these guys, by the way, and they've both turned a new leaf). But the point remains: the list goes on and on.
And drama sells. This novel captures that. It also captures the dangerous, troubling, yet exciting culture of video stunts and pranks. TikTok and Instagram in particular are full of people trying to pull off stunts and pranks for views. While many of the stunts and pranks in this book (like in real life) are at least somewhat staged, the author shows us the thought and effort that goes into them.
For example, there's a somewhat simple scene they shoot in which a character is simply expected to get “tripped” and fall over while carrying a lunch tray, getting covered in spaghetti. We, the audience, might see that as stupid, dumb, and lame, but it's a tremendous sacrifice for the actress who has to give up a bit of their dignity to make the scene work. Furthermore, because this ragtag, misfit film crew can't afford to pay extras, they're forced to do this in public—mainly their high school—so there's even a chance of being reprimanded or getting in trouble with their institution, a point which comes up several times throughout the novel.
We also understand the way that the parents feel. Some of us are on the older side and, despite creating content, we're concerned about this newer generation that appears to be endangering itself with risky or, quite frankly, dumb challenges like the Tide Pod challenge. We also find some of the pranks online to be quite mean spirited or worrisome, although most of them aren't. Anyway, with that said, we empathize with Will's father when he break down in tears, feeling he is ending his son's dream in order to protect him. In most movies and novels, a parent like this would almost be viewed like a villain. In this novel, they're viewed as sympathetic.
This reminds us a lot of the story of MrBeast, now the biggest YouTuber. He is famous for his very expensive stunts such as stopping a train with semi trailers or planting a million trees. He also recreated the famous scene from Squid Games, albeit without the actual death and maiming (thankfully). Well, MrBeast was once a guy named Jimmy who passed over going to college to make YouTube videos, much to the chagrin of his mother. This, like some of his stunts, put him at great risk, financially in this case. However, he followed his dream the same way Will tries to do in this novel.
Now, there is something a little challenging about this book, and it's Will's apparent mental illness that makes him see visions. It seems to be some sort of mix of schizophrenia and PTSD. Now, you could argue that these things actually either stem from or add to Will's creativity and imagination, but we're not sure if that's communicated in the novel. That might be head cannon. In either case, it seems mostly intended to add depth to Will's character. And that's fine. It's just that the rest of the novel is so lighthearted and fun that it doesn't seem to fit too well into the tone of the whole. If there was ever one novel in which the protagonist didn't need great emotional depth, it would be one like this.
In any case, this is a very worthwhile novel.
Check it out on Amazon!