VICTIM by Andrew Boryga

Just as last year’s juggernaut Yellowface featured a shameless, amoral author taking advantage of woke liberalism and tokenism in publishing, Andrew Boryga’s Victim does the same thing with journalism. It looks at victimhood -projected, experienced or faked – and how one young man’s manipulation of it sent him soaring, and then crashing, through the New York City journalism scene. If you enjoy fast-paced novels with unlikeable characters and can’t-look-away plot trainwrecks, then Victim is for you.

Why I picked it up: Victim was a buzzy book this spring! And it is my book club’s May pick.

Javier “Javi” Perez grew up in the Bronx under modest but stable circumstances, with a loving single mother, meals on the table, and a relatively safe neighborhood. His Puerto Rican father may have died in front of him, a drug deal gone bad, but Javi was not close enough to him to have suffered too much from it. The idea that he might be a victim – of institutional racism, of a system that sustains institutional wealth – does not dawn on him until a counselor from a private school on loan to his public school suggests that he might win a scholarship to a prestigious college if he plays up the hardships he endured in his childhood. So he does, and he gets in, and from there, Javi learns how to game the system.

When he launches a career in journalism, Javi embellishes the truth to gain clicks and readers and win over his editor. As his lies grow, so do the stakes, with Javi needing bigger and bigger stories to keep his name relevant. Addicted to online affirmation and unable to resist the urge to “exaggerate”, Javi keeps pushing it, even though he knows what he’s doing is unethical.

Like Yellowface, Victim is hard to turn away from. You want to find out how -or if – Javi will extricate himself from the lies – and whether he will redeem himself in the end. Also – who is the real victim here? The people Javi lied about, or Javi himself, who arguably found himself a pawn in the woke liberal machine? Lots to unpack here.

I listened to Victim on audio. Narration by Anthony Rey Perez was excellent. His smooth, resonant voice was not only evocative, but also very pleasant to listen to.

Victim was the 15th book of 2024 and satisfies the One Word Title category of the 2024 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.