On the surface, Kelly Harms’s new release, The Bright Side of Going Dark (Lake Union), appears to be about the dilemma that social media poses for most of us: we shouldn’t like it as much as we do, and we don’t, not really, except all the time, apparently. We’re hooked, but it can’t be a problem because everyone else is hooked, too, right? Right?

The main characters, Mia and Paige, both work in social media. Mia is an influencer on Pictey, an Instagram-like platform, whose perfect life includes a winsome rescue dog and a photogenic photographer fiancé. When we meet her in a flash forward, she’s throwing her phone off a cliff, executing the fantasy we’ve all considered and never had the guts (or wisdom?) to execute. Mia’s true reality is that her fiancé has jilted her right before their wedding, but she can’t let the world know that the fantasy life she has created and shared is kaput.

Mia’s counterpoint, Paige, influences exactly no one. She assesses flagged comments at Pictey — a job that comes with counseling and hazard pay. When Paige narrowly misses a cry for help from her half-sister Jessica on Mia’s feed, she gets pulled into Mia’s electronic life which is, you guessed it, addicting. The three women’s lives become entwined and collectively unravel. Hijinks ensue.

Influencers, phone throwing, hijinks — a light read, perhaps? Not so fast. Kelly Harms is a sneaky writer. Her stories may be full of winks and wit and whimsy, but don’t think for a moment they are light or, worse, lite. Because the moment you let down your guard (“Wheee—what fun!”) she clobbers you with a wrecking ball of reality, the stuff that hurts deep down.

In her blockbuster bestseller, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler, Harms performs the same feat, dancing on the knife’s edge between snort-your-coffee humor and bullseye insights, often in the same sentence. As a card-carrying curmudgeon, I resist such tactics, but in Harms capable hands I never felt played. Similarly, The Bright Side of Going Dark is about so much more than moral the quandary of screen time. It’s about grief and loss and anxiety. It’s about mothers and daughters — more anxiety — and about second and third chances.

Running through those themes, cinching them together with a red-hot needle is one idea: the awkwardness of emotional pain. How much should it hurt? How much will I let it? How long until it’s wallowing? Who needs to know about it? Who needs to be shielded? Everyone — even me?

Awkward, isn’t it? And quintessentially human. Like laughter, and this touching, engaging story. The Bright Side of Going Dark is as dark as it is bright, full of humanity: mobile devices, warts and all.

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Kelly Harms is an author, a mother and a big dreamer. She lives in Madison, WI, with her sparkling son, Griffin; her fluffy dog, Scout; and her beloved Irishman, Chris. Before this midwestern life, she lived in New York, NY, and worked with many of her author-heroes as an editor at HarperCollins and then as a literary agent at the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

When she’s not lost in a book that she’s either writing or reading, you can find her on the water, in the water or near the water.