Book Review: “Likes” by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum

Book Review:  “Likes” by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

“Likes” by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum is another coming of age story where there are three distinct familial characters:  father, mother and daughter.  The narration vacillates between the author and the father.  The crux of the story or plot has to do with the delicacy of family relationships and how parents respect the maturation of a child.  The plot employs the use of modern technology.  Technology and social media are threaded through the story, which drives a moving story via the child’s Instagram images. (Bynum 119) The narrator describes both parents “tracking” of their daughter’s interests, their direct way of relating personally to their child and lastly their ongoing desire for privacy with each other. (Bynum 123) The story presents perhaps a candid look into what makes up this century’s childhood and familial experience.  The title “Likes” may reflect on the ongoing attention to the child’s interests or other likes such as her inability to make friends or later technological likes as those in social media.  Perhaps much of childhood encompasses strange likes, like a parent’s rules or a child’s interests or friendships.  In the end, life is perhaps made up of these “likes” and the struggle for parent and child to align their likes and satisfy their own.  The story’s main protagonist is the father, who perhaps, in need of sexual attention is the most wounded by familial relationships.  The father becomes the focus.  The character of the daughter is told mostly through indirect characterization and even via the Instagram imagery.  Instagram and other social media may ironically, present modern youths convoluted story to the world. (Bynum 123) For the daughter, personality and indirect character development were done via the Instagram images. Modern children, it was suggested, may be more remote, less engaging or talkative from technological exposure. (Bynum 119) In the end, the success of one social media star suggested that this generation may, still yet, have a successful trajectory.  Both parents were also cold and remote as perhaps the Instagram imagery had also become a reluctant and guiding force in their lives.  Modern character development or personality for that matter may be hinged on social media where young users are likely products of such outcomes.  Parents may not be fond of the modern child’s personality development, it seemed as though they may even have a difficult time “liking,” them.  The impact of literary elements on the reader may guide the reader towards insight or compassion.  They may emotionalize the reader and connect them with an issue.  In this case, a reader may become ignited.  The connection with the story or the story’s analysis, may illuminate a reader to the point of activism or change.  A reader may place themselves within the context of the story’s plot or characterizations and utilize it as a juncture where they my engage in introspection.  The familial relationship as well as the technological issues in “Likes,” are controversial, parents may feel we have a lost generation.  They may equate a vision of their own with the intimate struggles of Bynum’s “Likes” characters family.

Shun- Lien Bynum, Sarah. “Likes.” Literature and Human Experience, edited by Richard Abcarian et al., Bedford/St. Martins, 2017, pp. 118-129

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