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Saturday, February 11, 2017
BOOK REVIEW: Kill the Boy Band, or, Fandumb
TITLE: Kill the Boy Band AUTHOR: Goldy Moldavsky GENRE: thriller, comedy, satire PLOT SUMMARY: An unnamed teenage girl and her three friends, Erin, Apple, and Isabel, are joined together by one common interest: their obsession with a boy band called The Ruperts. Bonding over stalking the guys, keeping up-to-date on all the latest news about them, writing fanfics about the band, and each fixating on their preferred Rupert, the four decide to rent a suite at a hotel where the boys are staying, all in the hopes of getting to meet them. At least, that’s all the narrator hoped for. Instead, however, she’s wound up being an accomplice when Apple accidentally kidnaps a member of the band – and the most useless member, at that! Things quickly spiral out of control, and the narrator is forced to ask herself how much she’s willing to participate in her friends’ insanity. Everyone knows fandoms can be crazy, but how far is too far? FIRST THOUGHTS: I admit, I sometimes judge a book by its cover. In this case, my first thoughts upon seeing the cover were just, “Okay, I have to know.” Goes to show you what a good title can do! As I began reading, I was instantly hooked. The tone and general reminded me a lot of the movie “Heathers,” which is one of my favorite films of all time. The book is a dark satire on fandom, how society views fandom, and why fandom exists in the first place. It’s like if the worst of Tumblr got made into a book. (I swear, that’s a compliment.) The story’s a good, quick read, with a lot of black comedy to keep things from getting too heavy, but it also asks some valid questions. Why do people, teenage girls in particular, latch onto celebrities so much? Why do manufactured boy bands get so popular when even their own fans admit they’re not exactly the most inspired musicians ever? And will the popularity of boy bands be the end of society as we know it? (Okay, as the narrator says in regard to that last one – probably not.) THOUGHTS ON PLOT: With a title like that, I expected some dark humor going in, and right from the get-go, I got my wish. This book is hilarious, while also having some genuinely dramatic and tense moments. From the very first page, the book’s plot pulled me in and kept me reading, hanging on its every word until the very last page. The story takes a turn from satire to mystery about halfway through, and while I kind of saw the resolution to the mystery coming, it still managed to be a fun ride while we got there. The book provides some fun, snarky commentary on fandom culture, while also criticizing society’s tendency to make fun of teenagers (especially teenage girls) for enjoying anything. I admit the ending was a bit of a disappointment. There’s no big climax where everything gets resolved – after all the drama is over,life simply goes on. Maybe it’s more realistic, but I expected a book this good to go out with a bang. It’s not a bad ending, just not the most exciting one. A word of warning – while it’s not a complete downer, it’s also not the most cheerful ending. 8 / 10 THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: Considering one of the main points of the book is to satirize fandom, especially those surrounding boy bands, I was expecting a cast of delightfully crazy fangirls, and the book definitely didn’t disappoint. Our four main characters are the narrator, her best friend Erin, the social media mogul Isabel, and the lonely rich girl Apple. Each girl has her own distinct personality, and it was great fun to watch them bounce off each other. They all felt like real people – if you’ve ever been deeply involved in a fandom, you probably know at least one of these girls. From the confused, semi-sane narrator to the vicious and attention-hungry Isabel, they all were a delight to read about. All four had another layer to their personality. If you think you’ve got them figured out from the get-go, keep reading – they may surprise you! I know they surprised me. I won’t reveal who surprised me the most, but let me just say, one of these four is the definition of a wild card. I also appreciated that the Ruperts themselves weren’t just bland, boring plot devices. They also all had distinct personality, and with each girl being fixated on a particular member of the band, they also served as great foils for our main characters. The Ruperts surprised me as I read the novel, though I didn’t find them quite as compelling as the girls. The Ruperts mostly got to shine in the rare scenes where we see them interacting with one another – there’s one scene about halfway through the book where three of the boys are arguing with each other, and it actually made me laugh out loud. The book’s cast is rounded out by Griffin (the band’s stylist), and Michelle (one of the boys’ sort-of girlfriend). Neither of them are particularly well-developed, but they’re both a nice addition to the story, and they both serve a definite purpose. Overall, the characters of this novel were an absolute delight, even if some (or even most) of them aren’t the nicest or most moral people around. 8.5 / 10 THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: By far the author’s biggest strength is that she’s really, really funny. She also has a clear understanding of the age group she’s writing for and about. The dialogue feels mostly realistic, and there’s quite a bit of vocabulary that are staples of fandom. There are a couple instances where the girls use internet slang in spoken conversation, which most teenage girls don’t tend to do, but it’s nothing too bad. Overall, Moldavsky knows how to write a compelling story, and how to keep her reader interested. This is her first novel, and I definitely can’t wait to read more from her! 9 / 10 THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: The novel has not one, but four leading ladies, at least two of whom are WOC. (Apple is Asian and Isabel is Latina – Erin and the narrator never have their ethnicity specified.) Hooray for diversity! Each girl appears to display a fangirl stereotype at the beginning, but as the plot goes on, their characters are examined more, and the stereotypes become greater insights into their personalities. Even if not all of them come off as particularly likable, none of them came off as lazy, one-dimensional characters. There’s also quite a bit of discussion on slut-shaming and how wrong it is – and at least one instance where the narrator catches herself slut-shaming someone else, and then immediately calling herself on it. She’s not perfect, but you can tell she’s making an honest effort to get past that sort of thinking, like so many of us are. I was glad to read that Apple was a larger girl (hovering around 250 pounds), though I was a bit put off that she was mainly the “fat comic relief” character, and that one of her biggest character traits was her insecurity about her weight. I would’ve liked to see her overcome that, but it is an unfortunate reality that most teenage girls would like to be thinner, regardless of their actual weight or health. Although I would’ve preferred to see Apple in a less stereotypical role, I did appreciate that none of the characters make any negative comments about her weight – except for one, but when it happens, it’s from a mostly unsympathetic character, and the comment is supposed to cement his role as an asshole, so it’s a more tolerable example than most. And, honestly – fat girls are a rarity in YA fiction. I’ll take what I can get. There are at least two LGBT characters, and the fact that one is closeted plays into the plot quite a bit. (There’s also, I may add, a perfect missed opportunity for a romance between Erin and the narrator, but I digress.) Although it doesn’t come up often in the story, there’s also mentions that the narrator has had issues with depression in the past, and she herself brings up the possibility that she’s mentally ill in other ways, but not yet diagnosed. The portrayal of her mental health never comes off as stereotypical or offensive, nor does it get used as her sole defining characteristic, while still making it clear how it affects her personality and daily life. Her depression isn’t her whole personality, it’s just something she has and has learned to live with. 7 / 10 FINAL THOUGHTS: If you’re a fan of dark comedy, I’d definitely recommend this book. It’s not the most challenging book, but if you’re looking for something fun and satirical, this may be the book for you. It’s one of the best books I read in the crapstorm that was 2016, and I expect to be reading it again, and again, and again. Now, who do I write to about getting a movie made? FINAL GRADE:8.1 / 10 ------- Thank you so much for reading this post! If read the book too and have any thoughts you'd like to share, please comment them below! Support me on Patreon HERE.