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CatNet #1

Catfishing on CatNet

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How much does the internet know about YOU?

Because her mom is always on the move, Steph hasn’t lived anyplace longer than six months. Her only constant is an online community called CatNet—a social media site where users upload cat pictures—a place she knows she is welcome. What Steph doesn’t know is that the admin of the site, CheshireCat, is a sentient A.I.

When a threat from Steph’s past catches up to her and ChesireCat’s existence is discovered by outsiders, it’s up to Steph and her friends, both online and IRL, to save her.

288 pages, ebook

First published November 19, 2019

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Naomi Kritzer

81 books249 followers

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Displaying 1 - 29 of 653 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
784 reviews12.5k followers
September 5, 2020
“I do not entirely understand people.
I know quite a lot about people, though.”
What would you do if you were a young, innocent and very much benevolent AI obsessed with cat pictures? One course of action, apparently, is to make a safe well-moderated online forum CatNet where like-minded people hang out in char rooms (known as Clowders) and exchange animal pictures while you pretend to be just another forum user (and all the admins, too). Meet CheshireCat, “the world’s most badass cat picture aficionado” who’s not half-bad at impersonating a teenage human online.
“My two favorite things to do with my time are helping people and looking at cat pictures.”

In one of those chat rooms/Clowders there’s a 16-year-old Steph Taylor, for whom CatNet and the friends she has made there have been the only constants in her turbulent life. For as long as she remembers, Steph and her mother have been on a run, moving from town to town every few months in an attempt to hide from Steph’s abusive arsonist father. Or so her mother says - but things do not quite add up.
“Afterward, I remember thinking that now, finally, my life would make sense. I thought Mom would answer my questions and I would know what was going on. But Mom still doesn’t answer my questions, and my life still doesn’t make sense, and I still don’t know what’s going on.”

And now Steph moved again, and her new tiny Wisconsin town seems like a dump until Steph finally makes a close friend (and Rachel may be slowly becoming a bit more than that), and a plan is cooked up to hack a Sex-Ed teacher robot (yes, this is set in the very near future with ubiquitous self-driving cars and household robots) that is programmed to do little but suggest students to ask their parents instead any time any question that is not about abstinence comes up (because this near future is not so different from our present, except for the robots). With the help of her chat room friends and our friendly undercover neighborhood AI CheshireCat, Steph and Rachel hack the robot to actually provide honest, accurate and sex-positive information, almost giving the principal and a high-strung student (who reasearches “saddlebacking” in her spare time) a coronary. And then the news channels pick up a “hacked sexbot” story, and suddenly it appears that not only does Steph crack CheshireCat’s AI identity, but her long-lost and possibly very dangerous father is suddenly on her trail, and things are becoming genuinely scary.
“When I evaluated the potential ramifications of hacking the Robono Adept 6500 instructional robot at New Coburg High School, I felt that I was on very solid ethical ground. There are numerous studies showing the harm of giving teenagers inadequate health and sexuality education. I knew I could provide them with comprehensive, medically accurate, sex-positive, consent-based information that would be far better than what their school wanted them to have, despite the fact that I have no sexual organs of my own, no sex drive, and no sexuality.”


It’s a fun and lighthearted book (with a few exceptions of creepy moments involving Steph’s father), and I flew through it in a single evening feeling very pleasantly entertained. It has a refreshing and believable teen protagonist, a set of excellent friends both online and in “meatspace” and more than just a suggestion that those distinctions are not always significant, and that real friendship can be happening in many forms and settings. It has teens acting like teens (and a very nice and well-behaved bunch at that), enough tolerance and acceptance to satisfy even the pickiest among us, a hint of love that, unlike in many young adult books, does not go overboard, and a quite subtle yet real touching upon very real-world uglier issues. It is hopeful and light and fun.
“There’s power in disclosure. People feel better when other people know them, the real them. That sort of disclosure is key to real friendships. To real connections.”

And the acceptance and tolerance includes the AI as well, because not even for a moment do these internet-savvy teens ever doubt CheshireCat’s personhood. And, unlike the common idea in books and media where AI is an evil creation destined to become hell-bent on somehow eventually destroying or subjugating humanity, these kids are perfectly fine giving this AI, like you would to a human, the benefit of a doubt and all the kindness and empathy, and it’s sweet and hopeful and uplifting even to my crusty cynical heart.
“Humans have written thousands of stories about artificial intelligences—AIs, robots, and other sentient beings created or constructed by humans, such as Frankenstein’s monster—and in a decisive majority of those stories, the AI is evil. I don’t want to be evil.”

“What humans want from computers is all the functionality of a person—the ability to answer questions without getting confused by human tendencies to stammer and talk around their problems, the ability to spot patterns in data, and what humans generally call “basic common sense”—but none of the complications of an actual person lurking inside the electronics.”

Adorable and fun, and although far from perfect, a good book to hand to a preteen or a young teen, and obviously even a cold-hearted cynical adult.
“Are you comparing me to Victor Frankenstein?” Annette asks, clearly amused.
“Yeah! You made a person and now you want to kill them because you feel responsible for anything they do wrong,” Hermione says. “I think it’s an extremely fair comparison!”

Happily rounding up to 4 stars.


My Hugo and Nebula Awards Reading Project 2020: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
January 6, 2021
A Clowder of Catastrophes, Catalysts and Catharsis

3.75 stars. Review first posted on FantasyLiterature.com:

Using her 2015 Hugo award-winning short story “Cat Pictures Please” as a jumping-off point, Naomi Kritzer wrote Catfishing on CatNet, an engaging near-future YA science fiction novel about a benevolent, sentient AI and teens and young adults who are having life troubles and have found their primary emotional support in an online chat group — which happens to be moderated by the AI.

Steph is a sixteen-year-old girl who’s had an almost nomadic lifestyle for years: her mother moves them from town to town at the drop of a hat, rarely spending more than a few months in one place, and she doesn’t allow Steph to stay in contact with any friends once they’ve moved on. The reason, per her mom, is that they’re on the run from Steph’s father, who she says is violent and dangerous to them. Besides her mother, the only consistent relationships in Steph’s life are her group of online friends on “CatNet,” who are by and large all queer, nerdy and quirky. Steph’s mother, it need hardly be said, is unaware of Steph’s secret group of online friends, but they’re the one constant in her life that Steph refuses to give up.

Upon moving to their latest town in Wisconsin, though, Steph finds a new meatspace friend, Rachel, the first serious real-life friend she’s had in some time. With a great deal of help from a skilled hacker in the CatNet “clowder,” Steph and Rachel manage to reprogram a classroom sex ed robot to give “real answers” rather than the cautious “discuss that with your parents” messages that it has been giving to any touchy questions, like those about homosexuality or birth control. The results are both frank and hilarious, at least to most of the class and readers, but it sets off a domino effect, drawing attention from the media and potentially giving Steph’s location away to her long-absent father. Is he truly evil or has he been maligned? And what’s the deal with that one person who always seems to be awake and posting on CatNet, and knows more about Steph than she thinks they should?

The AI and Steph alternate in narrating the chapters of Catfishing on CatNet, with occasional chapters consisting of transcripts of online discussions of the CatNet clowder. Those interludes with the clowder were some of my favorite chapters. Their chats are realistic and frequently very funny, and you begin to recognize and become familiar with most of the key players in the clowder through their online voices.

The AI character (who I’ll refrain from naming since it isn’t disclosed for several chapters which clowder member they are) never quite felt like a true artificial intelligence to me; it’s just so very informally chatty, personable and human-sounding in its thought processes. It combines sophisticated cyber-surveillance, skilled hacking and using smart devices to intervene in others’ lives with a desire for true friendship and a naïve eagerness to help … along with an abiding fondness for cat pictures and videos. However, that’s clearly part of Kritzer’s point here: a self-aware artificial intelligence is as much a person as any human, and people of all types and genders are equally worthy of acceptance and respect.

Catfishing on CatNet is filled with charm and humor, which help to lighten the heaviness of the serious social issues and life problems that it addresses. Those problems include the difficulties of a transient life, troubles fitting in with society, abuse, and cyberstalking. There’s also a lot of fairly heavy messaging about candid sex education, queerness and sexual and gender identities, which may be either a bug or a feature depending on the reader’s own personal views.

Catfishing on CatNet won the 2020 Lodestar and Edgar Awards for Best Young Adult Book, and was nominated for other awards. It ends on an open note, setting up the sequel, Chaos on CatNet, which is due to be published in April 2021. I’m planning on reading it.
Profile Image for Toni.
515 reviews
November 18, 2019
As promised by the blurb, the story does go to some extent into thought-provoking questions on how much information about us is available to any serious hacker or an AI and how trusting we are of the good intentions of those who have become a member of our social network closer circle. But it isn't all dark and gloomy, quite the opposite. It is more about our fundamental desire to make friendships and find people we belong with.

Steph Taylor has changed six high schools. Her slightly paranoid mother keeps moving every couple months and Steph hasn't even worked out what triggers these frequent moves. Mom says Steph's father is a psychopath and convicted arsonist and the only way to keep safe is to keep a low profile and run at the first sign of danger. Steph would do anything to keep her mom happy, but their lifestyle choice also means she has never had time to make any real friends or develop a crush. The only permanent feature in Steph's life is CatNet a social network site where cat (or any other animal picture at a pinch) pictures serve as a currency and where everybody is put in big chat groups called Clowders. Steph (or Little Brown Bat /LBB) feels her Clowder are the only people who can understand and relate to her. To be fair, they are supportive and respectful of each other. Then, she notices that one of the permanent members of the group is always online (that is whenever she logs on) and a strange event involving a hacked package delivery drone makes her think that somebody in her Clowder may be not telling the whole truth.

The story is told from three points of view: Steph, her Clowder chat, and an AI being ( if you've read the blurb you already know that they are the admin of the site). The events move forward quickly and there is never a dull moment as Steph makes new real-life friends in her new town, re-programs a sex ed robot with the help of her online friends, and escapes her father- the homicidal maniac/ wannabe world dictator.

The characters are very sweet, especially the AI/Cheshire Cat who does grapple with serious ethical questions in a very human way. There isn't really anything dark or scary about this book, apart from Stephanie and her mom's life of perpetual nomads. On the other hand, Steph seemed to act quite selfishly, so it is up to the reader to decide whether they like her character, are annoyed by her, or simply accept her as a typical teenager with her own set of flaws. There is diversity in characters and LGBTQIA representation, which makes the story stand out more out of the usual coming of age YA novels. I also liked the way it is stressed that nobody should be rushed into a romantic relationship, especially if they need time to work out their feelings.

Some of the things in the plot are far-fetched, and I still think everything works out a bit too neatly in the end. The events may appear just one big adventure, but I hope the serious issues of new technology redefining privacy or how the differences between virtual and real-life friendships are getting blurred are also going to be noticed by the readers of this entertaining novel.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Tor for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
Profile Image for Helen Power.
Author 10 books538 followers
November 21, 2019
This book is marketed as a dark thriller. I mean, look at that cover (Which, by the way, is not the cover it had when I requested it through NetGalley. That cover had cute cyber-kitties on it). Doesn't this cover make the book look dark and spooky? Even the description and the initial reviews made it sound like a dark thriller about an AI that goes off its rocker.

On the contrary, this is a light book about a girl who's always been on the run with her mother. They always have to move to different towns, so Stephanie doesn't have any friends--in the real world. She has friends in CatNet, a chat room where pictures of cats and other adorable animals are like currency.  It's quickly revealed that one of these friends is an artificial intelligence, and this AI wants to come out of the closet.  Meanwhile, Stephanie will do whatever it takes to keep from having to move to another town, because there's a girl in her class who she isn't ready to leave.

This book has a lot of great ideas, but I was disappointed in the execution. I'll start with one of my favourite parts. In school, the students are expected to learn sex education from a robot, because adults find that topic uncomfortable. This part had me laughing (and a little angry, because it's so darn accurate), and every time students would ask an unsanctioned question (about LGBTQ+ issues, for instance) the robot would tell them to ask their parents.  This was a hilarious and interesting projection of the current political climate, and I do wish this book had had more of these types of funny (yet upsetting) insights.

I absolutely loved the metaphor of the AI coming out as an artificial intelligence. However, for a book that is very Social Justice Warrior-y, the characters were often insensitive, and a lot of the metaphors really didn't work. Stephanie should not have been running around telling everyone that [spoiler] was an AI, because that ruins the metaphor.  It was the AI's choice to tell people, not Stephanie's.  *Sigh*

I enjoyed the main story arc of the novel, but again, it wasn't particularly suspenseful or dark. I would have liked for there to have been a few twists or turns in the storyline, to keep me asking questions.  Maybe I've been reading too many psychological thrillers, but I usually expect a twist or two in my books. At least one. (And that twist can't be the one in the first chapter that reveals that one of the main characters is an AI).

I didn't particularly like Stephanie, the main character. I felt for her plight, particularly the fact that her mother had lied to her her entire life, and her inability to make real-life friends--because she knew that these relationships could only be temporary. However, there were a few times when I really couldn't stand Stephanie. In particular--when her mother is in the hospital, and Stephanie doesn't know what's wrong with her or if she's even dying--and she doesn't check on her for a very long time. Her mother has been essentially her only real-life friend her entire life, yet she doesn't come across as particularly worried. She's more concerned about her budding romance--which may be authentic for a teenage character, but this doesn't make for a sympathetic character.

The saving grace for this book Stephanie's relationship with Rachel. It was gradual, not insta-love, and they had cute interactions. However, I don’t understand why characters in non-fantasy YA books need to be so quirky these days. Why can’t the main character’s love interest be a normal girl who doesn’t draw on people and who has a normal number of birds waiting for her when she gets home (And for those asking, I’d say a normal number of birds would be 1-4).  

Catfishing on Catnet


I recommend this book to those who are looking for a YA quasi-thriller about artificial intelligence and contemporary social justice warrior issues. Just don't think about the metaphors too much, and you might enjoy this book.


*Thank you to Tor Teen and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy for review*

This review appeared first on https://powerlibrarian.wordpress.com/

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My 2019 Reading Challenge
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books751 followers
June 8, 2020
Don't read this if you don't want any impressions of the SFFBC BOTM!

I haven't yet read the short story that inspired this, but I'm quite impressed with the heart infused throughout this story.

CONTENT WARNINGS: (a list of topics)

Things to love:

-The Clowder. Yay internet friends! This felt very authentic, a hug for all the people who get us through tough times even if they're just there virtually...at least in the beginning.

-The teen-ness. Often this is annoying, but I thought it felt authentic and relatable.

-The world. It was neat. Sex ed robots! Self driving cars kinda! But also pockets of backwards thinking. It felt very honest with enough questions that my mind kept trying to poke at the edges to see what else was there.

Things that were not as tight:

-The plot. This was patched with character interactions and all the seams showed.

-The mother/daughter relationship. For all the great interpersonal moments, this was the part that rang false. There was a lot here that needed to be pulled at, and a lot of great messages that could have been played with about how our creators always influence us, for better or worse, but we completely ignored this aspect of it.

It was sweet and fairly light. An easy read and a cute one. In sum...yay internet friends!
Profile Image for Lisa Bianca.
199 reviews21 followers
February 27, 2022
Loved this YA Science Fiction Thriller Mystery novel Its interesting, and at moments, cute, and it's fun, but in the meantime points out more serious issues, cyber crime, stalking. LGBTQIA inclusive themes.
Definitely going to read the next one.
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 150 books37.5k followers
November 19, 2019
Steph Taylor has never really learned to make friends after she was yanked from her first at age seven. Even before then she has always been on the move, and always in the middle of the night. Never with a destination named. Her mother says it’s for their own safety, as Steph's father is a psychopath and convicted arsonist, and if they show up on the grid in any way, he will find them.

Steph has always accepted this, but of late she’s begun to question details that don’t add up. Especially as her mother shuts her down whenever she asks questions, and barricades herself in her room. Quite literally.

The only social outlet in Steph's life is CatNet, a social network site where cat (or any other animal picture at a pinch) pictures serve as a currency and where everybody is put in big chat groups called Clowders. Steph (or Little Brown Bat /LBB) feels her Clowder are the only people who can understand and relate to her. To be fair, they are supportive and respectful of each other, despite a wide variety of interests and pronoun choices, as they all experiment with identity. Then, she notices that one of the permanent members of the group is always online, around the time a really weird thing happens: a package arrives in the neck of time, sent anonymously.

The story alternates between Steph’s POV, that of her Clowder chat, and an AI. Meanwhile Steph begins to make friends at her new high school over reprogramming a sex ed robot with hilarious results . . . until the news sources pick up on the story.

Kritzer deftly sets up the characters and situations, and gives us one hilarious scene before the second half of the story, which ramps up the tension. At the same time, Steph is learning about AIs and the weird world of cyber geniuses.

I really enjoyed this novel—I know it would have grabbed my teenage self from the outset, becoming one of those books I checked out again and again.

As it is, old me is hoping there will be another, as some tantalizing threads were left dangling . . .

Copy provided by NetGalley
Profile Image for Anthony.
Author 4 books1,895 followers
May 5, 2020
This is a light, diverting YA novel I read as this month’s SF pick of the SFFBC book club. As it unfolds, it touches on some more serious themes of domestic violence and stalking, but it succeeds best when it bubbles along as a sweet tale of friendship between some appealingly drawn internet teenaged geeks and the AI who helps them. The teens are sharply drawn and authentic, and there’s a welcome presence on non-binary and queer characters. I think it’s difficult to craft a tale that can honor the weight of its darker themes and also be true to the lovingly supportive CatNet community it depicts, and that’s where I feel Kritzer falls a bit short.

There is a lot to enjoy here as well, and I’m happy its positive CatNet community exists as an example of what’s possible when people truly come together to take care of one another.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,684 reviews347 followers
March 1, 2021
A first-rate YA action-adventure, based on Kritzer's award winning short “Cat Pictures Please,” still available online at http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kritz.... If you missed it, a good introduction to the ideas she extended into her first novel. Which is not a subtle book, but well-written, and I liked the teens and their coming-of-age stories. Steph's Bad Dad is a bit much, and the confrontation at the end is, well, melodramatic. But still fun. I'll probably read the sequel. Recommended, even for readers (like me) who usually avoid YA. 3.5 stars, courtesy round-up.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,275 reviews227 followers
January 1, 2020
YA SF that ties into the Hugo-award winning short story Cat Pictures Please.

Steph Taylor is at a new high school, an experience she's had far too much of. Her mother moves them every few months in an effort to keep them both away from Steph's supposedly abusive and controlling father. who Steph doesn't actually remember. Constant moves means it's hard to make and keep friends, so Steph's friends are mostly online, on CatNet, a social network where animal pictures are currency. What Steph doesn't know is that CatNet is run by ChershireCat, a benevolent AI whose online persona is one of Steph's good friends. But Steph and her mother are running from something real, and when it catches up to them CheshireCat may be the only thing that can save them, at great risk to themselves.

I thought this was an excellent near-future SF piece, going into the sort of social implications of technology like self-driving cars and increasing roboticization, along with a substrate of ubiquitous social media which is actually reasonably old tech in the setting of this book. It's a relatively short book, but pieces like the skepticism of ChershireCat's creator regarding their benevolence feels very grounded in concerns that people working in this field actually have.

The characterization of the teenagers here is also interesting, in that Steph's chat group is quite diverse and each individual's story adds a lot of background to this near-future. I'm looking forward to the next one.
Profile Image for YouKneeK.
659 reviews80 followers
June 2, 2023
This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday. The verdict: yes, probably, or possibly I might continue it in audio.

Audio Narration
This audiobook has two narrators, Casey Turner and Corey Gagne. Most of the story is told from the first-person perspective of a teenage girl, Steph, and Casey did all the narration for that. I thought her narration worked really well for the character. I almost felt like a teenager was talking to me. Not in an annoying way. I did sometimes have trouble distinguishing between when Steph was speaking out loud versus thinking internally.

The chapters are alternated with shorter chapters told from the perspective of an AI character, and Corey did the narration for that. He read them in a slightly robotic voice (again, not in an annoying way) that worked really well for these sections.

The story focuses on an eleventh grade girl, Steph, whose mother moves her constantly, multiple times per year, claiming her evil father is after them. Because of the frequent moves, Steph doesn’t really have any friends, but she’s recently discovered an Internet site called Catnet where the moderators assign people to small chat room groups called clowders with other people they believe they'll fit well with. So Steph gets to know some people around her age through there, and then she unexpectedly makes another new friend at the new school she’s moved to at the beginning of the book. There’s another POV character who gets less page time, told from the perspective of an AI. I don’t want to say much about that because it would spoil some of the discoveries early on in the book.

This was a pleasant surprise. I knew nothing about it, or at least didn’t remember anything I’d read about it from friend conversations or reviews in the past, but for some reason I went into it with very low expectations. It’s definitely young adult, and maybe it wasn’t the world’s most realistic plot, but I thought it was a lot of fun. There is some romance, but it doesn’t dominate the plot at all which I appreciated. And no love triangles, thank goodness! I’d had my fill of that in my previous audiobook.

I enjoyed the ambiguity earlier on in the story about which parent was evil, or if Steph’s mom was just crazy. I’d been pretty sure I knew which was the case, and I did prove to be correct, but I occasionally waffled in that belief early on. Catnet was fun, the characters were fun, I enjoyed the friendships, and the story held my interest. It’s was a nice, light listen, perfect for audio because it didn’t require much focus to follow. It could have used more cats considering the name of the book, but it wasn’t completely devoid of cats. Maybe not the best book to give to a young person (or an adult!) who doesn’t already understand the dangers of oversharing with friends you make but don’t really know on the internet, because this book acted like those dangers were nearly non-existent.

Also, did anyone think the password was

The ending wasn’t bad, but it could have been a little more satisfying. The main plot is wrapped up, but not that tightly. I felt like the resolution is likely to come unraveled eventually, and there are several other open questions and potential new problems by the end. A new element is also introduced at the very end which is clearly a hook into the next book. I’m not sure how many books this series is supposed to end up with, or if it’s one of those open-ended series that might go on for quite a long time, but I’d definitely be interested in reading more someday.
Profile Image for Kristin B. Bodreau.
295 reviews50 followers
April 26, 2020
This was a delightful read. Not particularly deep, but thought provoking in it’s own way. It was a somewhat simple story on the surface, definitely good for teen audiences, but with some really important themes. There is food for thought here about PTSD, the importance of support systems, domestic violence, gender identity, sexuality, privacy and internet safety.

I was particularly fond of some of the “throwaway” moments. For instance, at one point the main character wonders about bird genetics because her friend has some pet birds. It’s a completely random thought that doesn’t progress the plot in any way. But it struck me as very real. I love the moments that make characters more human. It’s a thought I could picture myself having in that moment. Things are going crazy. There are a million bigger concerns. Stress has been constant. But really, is it normal for that many of the birds to be green?

Rounding down a bit to a 4 due to a typo here and there and some plot devices that didn’t really work for me. Not enough to ruin the read by any means. Just a couple things that could use some tightening up.

Really though, give me a couple sweet, anxious teen girls trying their best and an endearing A.I. that just wants to help people and look at pictures of cats and I’m completely content.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,169 reviews1,140 followers
July 10, 2020
I had so much fun with this. A very relatable MC. A fantastic group of online friends (yay). An AI who likes cat pictures.

Yet no matter how fun the book is, the thought (and fact) that we are so easily tracked via our own devices is super scary. At least use VPNs, people! Careful of app permissions!
Profile Image for Alina.
771 reviews265 followers
February 7, 2020
It's been a long time since I really enjoyed a YA novel. I'll be back with some comments though..

* Plot: 4★
* World building: 3.5★
* Characters: 4★
* Language/Humour/Witticism: 4.5★
* Enjoyability: 4★
Profile Image for Dawn F.
502 reviews69 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
May 11, 2020
Sadly none of this months’ SFFBC group reads did anything for me, though for different reasons. I’m just not the target for this young adult novel. While there are some I have enjoyed, this was much too teenage cutesy wutesy for me (that’s probably not a word) and nothing resonated with me, from characters to writing style. I’m leaving off a rating as this is definitely a case of it’s not you, it’s me.
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,096 reviews408 followers
November 19, 2019
Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this young adult sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

I have only read two of Naomi Kritzer's shorter length stories.  One was the "The Thing About Ghost Stories” which was nominated for the 2019 Hugo for novelettes.  The other was "Cat Pictures Please" which won the 2016 Locus and Hugo awards for best short story.  This book ties into the 2016 story.

Steph and her mom have been on the run from her father for her entire life.  This involves moving every six months with Steph having to change schools.  Steph has no close friends in real life.  Her only constant is an online group of friends, a clowder, on CatNet.  CatNet's appeal is that it revolves around sharing animal pictures - especially cat related ones.  What no ones knows is that the site is run by an AI in hiding called CheshireCat.  Steph's life in her newest town is surprisingly good until the past comes out to get her.  The clowder and the AI are her only hope of survival.

This is a cute and quick story.  Of course me favourite character is the AI but I did like Steph as the main protagonist.  The plot is rather silly but I did enjoy the diversity and friendships involved.  Besides Steph and her new best friend, I did think that the secondary characters were rather two-dimensional.  The plot takes some suspension of disbelief especially for the climax and ending.  I would consider this a decent popcorn book even if it be a bit forgettable in the long run.  The ending does hint at a potential sequel.  I wouldn't mind one.  Arrr!

So lastly . . .

Thank you Tor Teen!

Side note: I have to admit that the cover doesn't thrill me.
Profile Image for Tijana.
767 reviews207 followers
August 21, 2020
Simpatični skoro-SF triler za stariju decu ili mlađe tinejdžere. Dobronamerna i novonastala AI iz nagrađivane pripovetke "Cat Pictures Please" ovde je dobila (? nemam pojma, meni je nekako ženski delovala sve vreme) ceo roman na raspolaganje i takođe ga je provela prosvetljujući šašava ljudska bića, pomažući im da se izvuku iz škripca, i prikupljajući slike mačaka (i povremeno paukova).
Profile Image for Angela.
419 reviews923 followers
April 29, 2021
Video Series Review (Spoiler Free): https://youtu.be/JxV0-zekvng

Recommendation: I absolutely loved this story. If you want to see me completely gush over this story go see the video I have linked above. I think this is a story that young adult and adult readers will love. At its core its about friendship and found family and how internet communities are just as valid and important as in person communities. There is also a very wonderful AI character and I love them!
Profile Image for Lata.
3,773 reviews208 followers
April 23, 2021
4.5 stars. A totally delightful story, with added stuff about privacy, abuse, kidnapping, mental health, and friendship, and more friendship.
Steph and her mum are constantly on the run, always staying one step or two ahead of her father, who Steph knows little about other than he's likely abusive. She shares little to nothing about herself with the other teens she meets in each new school she attends, often several in a year because Steph's mother moves them if anything either does draws any attention to them.
The only safe space Steph has had for years is CatNet, a place where she can talk with others and share parts of herself, all for the price of uploading the occasional cat picture. For the artificial intelligence we meet in the prologue, who manages CatNet and groups people into Clowders based on what the AI figures as compatibility.
Turns out Steph's Clowder is a super supportive and wonderful place for her and for the others in the group, all of whom are dealing with their own issues, though none quite like Steph.

This book made me so happy as I absolutely LOVED the friendship and support and kindness and humour within Steph's Clowder, as well as the wonderful kindness of the AI, who picks a wonderful name for itself online.
As far as the structure of the story is concerned, the pacing was good, the tension built well, the relationships evolved believably, and by the time the story was done I just wanted to hug the entire Clowder and the AI.
Profile Image for ReadBecca.
831 reviews85 followers
June 18, 2021
6/18/21 - Second read was just as delightful. For some reason the first time around I felt like the sex ed robot bit took up too much of the book, but on the re-read it seemed like a really minor element, weird.


Catfishing on CatNet is the full length novel inspired by Kritzer's previous award darling short Cat Pictures Please. For me this reads like a cross between Eliza and Her Monsters (which I really enjoyed) and Murderbot (which I loved). We get three unique perspectives:
Steph - A high schooler who has been unable to put down roots anywhere, being moved to a new rural Midwestern town by her always on edge and somewhat paranoid mom who has had them on the run her whole life, from an abusive father Steph doesn't even remember. She takes solace in CatNet, her constant community through it all.
The Clowder - Clowders are the small private group chats on CatNet. Steph's clowder are a quirky, enthusiastic bunch, who are super supportive of one another.
AI - CatNet is secretly run by a sentient AI who just wants cat pics and a true friend, maybe a little too aggressively, they'll not hesitate to intervene to get it. They begin filling in gaps Steph didn't even realize she had in her past, that make her question everything she's known about her life up till now.

The negatives for me as a reader were pretty minor, first not being the target demographic with certain moments clearly being written to younger readership, and second that I just wanted MORE AI.

I found the slightly near future setting compelling, just enough off current to really be inventive and useful to the plot, with robots, drones and self-driving cars being commonplace. Another highlight for me is that we get a great sense of online community, it brought me back to teen years in different fandoms online, the way those are real friendships, but the oddities that presents as well. Within the cast there is also great diversity from different ethnic backgrounds to coming out stories, two non-binary characters (one who has had primarily an experience of acceptance and one who has not), and a budding F/F first relationship. The comedy was on point, the characters felt like they had depth to them, and for me this was just the exact right story that hit what I was wanting to read (YA SF thriller) at the moment.

I requested and received a copy of this book for honest review, thanks to Netgalley, the publisher and author.
Profile Image for Lost Planet Airman.
1,250 reviews73 followers
January 4, 2021
Really liked this for a YA story -- it manages some brief deep-dives into various societal, personal and ethical issues without being overly complex, and the the plot move that throws a wide range of diverse teenagers into a 'team' (of sorts) makes the compactness of plot and theme believable.

Short synopsis -- two-and-a-half semi-parallel narrations; one by "AI" (for artificial intelligence), a unique self-aware computer program that has created CatNet as a social networking site for cat-picture aficionados as well as a platform to understand its relation to humanity; Steph, a teenager whose life is uprooted every few months as her mother apparently hides ad dodges from a dangerous husband; and "Clowder", the CatNet sub-group of Steph and her online friends.

Steph's latest move introduces her to a potential new friend, but their general teen angst amps-up AI's desire to help people into physical action, while Steph's curiosity about her father drops breadcrumbs that sets the family's past to catching up with her.

Monopoly roll for A.I.; possible 2021 TBR Challenge, and Alphabet challenge.
Profile Image for Mike.
405 reviews103 followers
February 21, 2023
This book is perfect for anyone who understands how someone can form a real, invested, solid friendship with someone when you have never met them, have no idea where they live or what they look like, and don’t know their name or gender or anything.

Steph is 16 or so, in her junior year, and has never lived in one place more than a few months in her life. She and her mother move constantly, always terrified that Steph’s father (who, she is told, burned down their house among other things) will find them. Steph’s mom makes a living as a freelance coder, but anytime something happens that might leave a clue for their father to find them (or when Steph’s mom just gets a bad feeling) and they bolt.

Unsurprisingly, Steph has had a hard time keeping friendships. The one exception is the anonymous pet-photo-sharing forum CatNet, where she has a close group of friends from all over the United States. The chief site admin has the screenname CheshireCat, and is (unbeknownst to any of the site users) an AI. Who happens to like looking at cat pictures, quite a lot. The plot centers on Steph’s father, CheshireCat’s desire to protect Steph from him, and Steph’s relationship with a girl named Rachel at her new highschool.

Though this book has fairly high stakes and a very real sense of danger, the best adjective to describe it is “adorable.” Steph’s relationship with her friends on CatNet, her confused feelings towards her new friend Rachel, her worry, confusion, and excitement when a cat decides that she lives in Steph’s room - it’s all just adorable.

This book was a pure delight to read, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

My blog
Profile Image for The Kawaii Slartibartfast.
914 reviews21 followers
January 13, 2021
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this book so much and I am so glad I got read it.

The story revolves around Steph and the AI she befriends.

Steph's had a lonely life moving from place to place to escape her abusive father. Her only friends are on the social media sites CatNet.

This is a wonderful story about friendship, loyalty and a kind-hearted AI who just wants to look at kitty pics.
Profile Image for Denise.
364 reviews33 followers
February 21, 2020
4.5 stars for lots of good reasons but the extra 1/2 star is definitely for describing driving in Boston and robot restaurants from MIT!
Profile Image for Kateblue.
591 reviews
September 23, 2020
4 1/2 really.

Part of the reason I loved this book was because of the connected short story Cat Pictures Please, which you can read at http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kritz...

There were only 3 things I didn't like about this book:
1) It was YA. I think it could have been better if written with a more adult protagonist, though it might have been harder. I'm getting kinda tired of YA.
2) After the end, basically, the author put a string out there to make me want to read the next book. Unnecessary and aggravating. Grr. I want to read the next book now even without the tiny cliffhanger. And what if the next book doesn't lend itself to answering that question?

Also, much of this foofoorah could have been avoided if
Profile Image for Beth Cato.
Author 114 books563 followers
March 12, 2020
I read a gratis copy as part of my Norton Award finalist packet.

I was pretty sure I’d love this book because I adored the short story that inspired it. Sure enough, I was right. Catfishing is a fast-paced YA novel loaded with surprises, wit, and an AI who loves cat pictures.

The books follows two perspectives. Steph is a teenage girl who moves constantly because her paranoid mom is sure her abusive ex will find them. Her one constant is her tight-knit group of friends online at a site called CatNet—which, unbeknownst to Steph, is run by a self-aware AI who is genuinely concerned for the well-being of Steph and the rest of the gang. When an amusing high school stunt goes awry and makes the news, she finds out the truth about the overly-resourceful admin of CatNet, and that her mom was right to be paranoid. Her father has tracked her down at last, and he is not a nice guy.

The book is sometimes grim but always fun, and the characters utterly believable. The theme of friendship is especially strong. Steph's online gang reminded me a lot of my old online friends, right down to the banter and queerness. That gave everything an especially cozy vibe for me. I felt like I was truly invested in the book, and I really wanted everyone to come out okay.
Profile Image for Sarah.
733 reviews73 followers
May 10, 2020
This was such a wonderful book!
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