After reading Kaira Rouda’s “Somebody’s Home,” you might feel that the plot is not as dense as it could have been, and the characters are far too superficial. You might even feel a slight irritation while reading the perspectives of the different characters involved, thinking all the while why they are so hollow and stupid. You are not wrong. The plot is not as strong as it could have been, and the characters are indeed too shallow for us to relate to them. But you are lucky if you can’t relate to any of the characters, because if you can, then either you are a product of this internet era, which has somewhat lost all forms of sensitivity while posting streaks on Snapchat and videos on Tiktok, or you are a miserable member of Generation X who has grown up feeling lonely and under confident and has struggled a lot with self-image issues.
Every generation has its own problems. That’s what we have learned. But when it comes to generation Z, things are entirely different because it is the first generation to have grown up with internet access. They are the “digital natives” who have started using mobile phones and iPads even before they have learned how to talk. Rouda paints a vivid picture of this generation in the novel, highlighting the major issues of growing up in a digital age. The prime example is Tom, Jess, and Sandi’s children, Davis and Danny. Tom was abandoned by his mother at a very young age, and having a father who had terrible anger issues didn’t make things easier for him. His father would keep reminding him that he is not Sandi’s (Tom’s stepmother’s) own son, and they have their own children now to take care of. Tom had a hard time at school as well. He was bullied at school and failed to keep up with his studies because he was dyslexic and had ADHD. But all of this was ignored by the school and his family. Feeling lonely and cornered by everyone, he would spend hours, in the end, playing violent video games to take out his suppressed anger and frustration. Gradually, he gained access to the dark web, too, with all the illegal activities that go on there. So, when his new friends gave him the guns and taught him how to use them, he knew that he had to shoot his father first. Years of violent video games and illegal activities on the dark web have thoroughly desensitized him to issues like these.
On the other hand, we have Jess, who was born with a silver spoon and indifferent parents. She would have nannies and money to get whatever she wanted, but never her parents. She had little to no attachment to her parents, and for that, indeed, they are to be blamed. She grew up learning that she was privileged and that money could buy her whatever she wanted. Being privileged also meant that she could avoid taking responsibility for her wrong decisions and actions and simply put the blame on someone who was less privileged than her. That’s what having money, and influence is about—exploiting people for your needs and putting the blame for your actions on someone else. For someone who has always been in such a secure environment, with whatever they asked for right in front of them, Jess had no idea about the world and its people. For her, Tom is the cute, cool guy who understands her much better than her mother can. When she played the Nazi game with her drunk friends at the party, she could see her friend Bonnie worrying over the consequences of it. But she chose to be casual about it. The next day, when the video went viral, and they were receiving death threats over calls and texts, she realized what she had gotten herself into. She is quite a good student and has been accepted to USC along with several other good colleges. So it’s not that she doesn’t know what the Nazis had done with the Jews. She has learned history and knows a lot about it. The fact that her mother is a Jew herself makes things even worse. But she never felt the need to be serious or take the blame for her wrongdoings. The same goes for her friends as well, who can simply fool around and post videos of these horrible games, knowing well that it is wrong to play such games in the very first place. On top of that, all of her friends leave for other boarding schools the next morning, knowing that the school has called a meeting to discuss the punishment that they will receive. That is what Jess’s father, Roger, too, had in mind when he decided to meet Julie and request that she come back home with Jess.
The adult characters like Roger, Julie, Doug, and Sandi belong to generation X and millennials who struggle with their own problems like not having enough confidence, struggling with body image issues, having anger issues, and coping with it in an unhealthy manner and of being in a toxic relationship with your abuser knowing well that it is wrong and unhealthy. They were also the first generation to be brought up by working mothers and non-supportive or absent fathers. In the case of Roger and Julie, we can clearly see how that has made an impact. Roger has grown up with the idea that money is the thing that is most important. Coming from a middle-class family, he has always worked hard so that he could climb up the social ladder. Julie was brought up by a single mother who worked in a bottling plant, much like Roger’s parents, who also worked in factories, and has grown up being ashamed of her humble background. For them, earning money and becoming rich has been of utmost importance, but what values you have or what you pass on to your children became a thing of least importance. Everything was about pretense and showing off.
Problems like physical appearance issues, being attached to your abuser and struggling with not having enough confidence may exist irrespective of the generation that the person belongs to, but kids who have grown up in a digital age and feel comfortable addressing problems more openly, be it virtually or in reality, are less likely to face these issues in the first place. Tom’s case is exceptional. It is more due to bad parenting that shows the impact which parents can have on young children. Tom is a child who needs special care, which was denied to him by his birth parents, which in turn affected him so much that he felt the need to engage himself by doing things that he knew were morally wrong.
Another issue that crops up in today’s time and that Rouda has focused on too is the aspect of intolerance and the hatred that is spread using social media. The people who are outraged by watching the video of Jess and her friends playing an offensive game are the same people who call them up to threaten and harass them. They do not think for one moment that their actions are equally wrong. If you want someone to improve on their actions, the solution is to educate them, not give them death threats or harass them.
See more: ‘Somebody’s Home’ Plot Summary: How Are All The Characters In The Book Connected To One Another?