I've heard it said that wealth doesn't change a person's basic personality. Rather, it amplifies traits that are already in place. So if one has a tendency to be kind and generous, wealth amplifies kindness and generosity. If a person is mean and selfish, those traits are enhanced by wealth. In Rich Kids of Instagram: A Novel, this principle is demonstrated with regard to vice. Many young people in their late teens and early twenties have tendencies toward getting drunk or high, being sexually promiscuous, and treating people around them like dirt. In RKOI, we see the Rich Kids taking their vices to extremes that most people couldn't dream of.
The novel, inspired by the popular web site/ tumblr feed, evokes a mix of revulsion (are there really people that depraved in this world?), envy (wouldn't it be nice to have access to that kind of lifestyle!), and pity (these people's lives are so empty and aimless!). The anonymous creator of the RKOI web site teamed up with Maya Sloan, a bona fide writer, to capture the lifestyles of the rich and depraved within a well-written story.
In RKOI, we meet a line up of characters who, thanks to their parents' enormous wealth and unmatched influence, feel like they rule the world. Along the way, they indulge in plenty of drinking, drugs, and sex, while spending wads of cash. Each chapter is told from the perspective of on of the Rich Kids. Their paths cross and intermingle in amusing and appalling ways. Along comes a sort of impartial observer, a tech genius who has entered the upper stratosphere of wealth by selling his startup to one of the Rich Kid's media mogul father. The other Rich Kids open their lives and lifestyles to him, but have no idea that he doesn't share their Rich Kids desires and attitudes.
RKOI is an entertaining, sickening read. It will reinforce any negative stereotypes you might have about how the .01% live. There's not a single character that I could like or find sympathy for. Surely some of the children of the elite are admirable and moral, but their lives, according to the authors, must be much less entertaining. Neither should you look for a moral message here, other than, perhaps, immorality begets immorality, whatever tax bracket you're in.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!