I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman
From Goodreads: For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.
Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.
Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.
Thanks to Harper Collins for sending me a finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Have you ever read one of those books which has as many pros as cons? I have weirdly mixed feelings for this book. On the one hand, I loved the diversity in this standalone. We had a Muslim protagonist, a bisexual character, a gay trans character who is mixed-race and suffers from anxiety, and a black character. I think it’s really cool that the band, The Ark, are so diverse, as it really allows Oseman to explore various issues while showing us this super-famous band as amazing musicians, rather than it being tokenism. Although bits of the plot do centre around various issues that arise because of the diversity, it was also cool to see how little they mattered in the grand scheme of things. This is a book about people connecting, and about the privacy of celebrities, not about relationships and sex. Which I loved. There’s not a whole lot of romance in this book actually, which was a little surprising and refreshing for YA.
The thing that divided my opinion somewhat is the whole fandom stuff around the band. On the one hand, we’re given Jimmy’s POV. He’s clearly struggling with the pressures of fame, the whole ‘shipping’ of bandmates [I couldn’t help but think of One Direction at this], the crazy fangirls, the mobs of girls demanding selfies and responses to tweets, who also happen to know all their addresses and claim to ‘love’ the band members. It was quite uncomfortable at times, simply because it did make me question a lot about the role of celebrities in our culture. What should be kept private, and what should be given up to the public? There’s some incredibly interesting and insightful questions packed into I Was Born For This, and I enjoyed mulling them over even after I put the book down.
On the flip side though, there’s Angel, who is a fan. She’s not one of the super harassment-type fans, but she still checks twitter updates on the band all the time, as well as never shutting up about them, and to an extent this seems like her whole identity. Again, I couldn’t help but think of the very OTT One Direction fans who would do stuff like threaten to shoot their pets and visited the site where a member had been sick at the side of the road, turning it into a weird shrine. I mean, I am a fan of lots of things, don’t get me wrong, but I just couldn’t connect to a lot of Angel’s obsessing. It was pretty cringey in places, not because the writing was bad or anything, but because I’ve never gone through that addiction-like obsession with something before. Not to that extent at least. And though I really liked her character, I thought she was a wonderful protagonist, this whole aspect of her character disturbed me because I just couldn’t relate to it. Some of the things she and the other fans do made me wince and feel a bit pitying really. An interest which takes over like that is kinda concerning.
Overall, I’m giving I Was Born For This an 8/10. I loved the diversity in the book, and the exploration of celebrity culture, but the whole fandom thing made me uncomfortable. Though that’s really not a sign of bad writing. Alice Oseman has crafted one hell of a book, and I laughed and sighed along with every page.
This book has just been released in the UK. You can buy a copy from Waterstones here, Amazon UK here, or Book Depository here. Alice Oseman will also be appearing at YALC convention at the end of July in the UK, so you should definitely swipe a copy of this book if you’ve got a ticket.