Could you last six whole weeks without your phone? Six weeks without sharing photos, without group messages, without being kept in the social‑media loop?
An eccentric entrepreneur has challenged Esther’s year group to do just that, and the winners will walk away with £1,000.
For Esther, whose dad and sister live thousands of miles away in New York, the prize might be her only chance to afford flights for a visit…
But can she really stay disconnected long enough to win?
Keren takes us straight into the obsession with mobile phone with Esther taking a series of selfies so her friends can approve her outfit; I’m no longer in my teens, but I recognised this habit immediately. Technology is evident in every aspect of Esther’s life: it is how she keeps in contact with her friends, her Mother and Step-father’s business is failing due to a bad review of Trip Advisor, and she is reliant on technology to keep in touch with her Dad and Sister in New York. In this way, Keren shows us that technology can be a force for good, allowing Esther to have a relationship with her Dad and sister that she couldn’t have had before technology. My own parents and two of my siblings live in New Zealand, so this idea of technology helping to bridge the physical space was one I could empathise with, and I really felt for Esther struggling with the idea of losing that contact after giving up her phone.
Esther decides to take part in The Disconnect, a six week no-phone project to win £1000, which sounds simple, until you realise just how much we rely on our phones. It’s not a decision Esther takes lightly, and there are definitely obstacles along the way. Not all of her friends join in, not everyone is of the opinion that it is a better way of living, and there is something not quite right about the whole project.
I absolutely loved this book; it is a fast-paced gripping story about our relationship with technology, and one that everyone should read.
Q and A with Keren David
1. Can you tell us a bit about your book The Disconnect for anyone who hasn’t heard about it yet?
It’s about a group of teenagers challenged to give up their phones for six weeks – if they can do it, they’ll win £1000. Esther really wants that money, so she can visit her dad and sister in New York. But it’s not easy!
2. What inspired you to write about giving up phones? And why did you concentrate on just phones rather than other forms of technology?
The idea of a no phone challenge just popped into my head – and then I discussed it with my teenage son who couldn’t contemplate giving up his phone for a day, let alone six weeks. I think we have a particular relationship with our phones, because they’re with us all the time. I can walk away from a computer, but now I feel very strange (and slightly panicky) if I don’t have my phone with me. And I wanted to keep it realistic, I didn’t want to exile people to some tech-free island.
3. Half of Esther’s family live in New York, thousands of miles away from her. Why was it important for them to have this physical distance in The Disconnect?
I think this happens to a lot of families – split by physical distance – and technology is a wonderful thing for keeping in touch, but it’s not quite the same as having the person physically present. This particular ‘disconnect’ was on my mind, because my sister was preparing to go and live abroad, and the book is dedicated to her and her husband.
4. How would you manage without your smartphone for 6 weeks?
I would HATE it, but I think I’d concentrate better, read more and find it easier to write. So maybe I’ll try it.
5. What would you like people to take away from reading The Disconnect?
Think about your relationship with your phone. Consider giving it up for one or two days a week. Don’t shrink your life into a screen.
6. Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on next?
I can’t, because it’s not announced yet, but it’s probably the most personally challenging book I’ve ever written.
7. Are there any 2019 releases (besides your own) that you’re particularly excited for?
Susie Day’s books are always wonderful, and Max Kowalski Didn’t Mean It is out in September. Zoe Marriott is my go-to for fantasy, and I’m looking forward to reading her latest, The Hand, The Heart and The Eye. I haven’t read Lisa Williamson’s Paper Avalanche yet, but I know I’ll gobble it up. And also from Barrington Stoke Tanya Landman’s One Shot looks amazing.
Thanks so much to Keren for these awesome responses!
Do you think you could give up your phone for 6 weeks?