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I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman - Review

Monday, March 22, 2021


Where did I get it? My friend Chloe bought it for me for my birthday. She loves Alice's books and wanted me to read more of them, so she bought me this. It's about a band and I'm a definite fangirl of many bands, so it seemed perfect for me!


What's it about? Angel Rahimi is a fan of a band called The Ark. One week, just after her A level results, Angel goes to London to stay with her friend Juliet. The two have been friends on the internet for a couple of years, but haven't met each other in person yet. They have plans to go to a meet up of other fans, to watch a live showing of The Ark playing an awards show in America, before going to a gig and a meet and greet with the band later in the week. It's going to be amazing, right? They're going to talk about The Ark ALL WEEK! 

But upon Angel's arrival she discovers that Juliet has invited Mac, a boy she knows off the internet, to stay too. Angel is really upset, and feels like Mac is monopolising Juliet's time. It's not turning out at all like she hoped.

Meanwhile, in a dual narrative, we are with Jimmy, one of The Ark. He is a trans man, he is in a band with his best friends Rowan and Lister. They're on top of the world, aren't they? They've won an award in America and as soon as they sign their new contract, they'll break the US and go global. 

But Jimmy suffers from almost debilitating anxiety. He struggles to cope with the pressures of fame. Plus, there's a conspiracy theory around him and Rowan - that they are together as a couple - that the fans call Jowan. Lister is also partying way too much which is causing concern for everyone. Plus, there's Rowan's girlfriend Bliss, who no one in the fandom knows about... 

The two narratives clash, obviously, but in really unexpected ways. There were so many twists and turns that the whole book felt like a riot to read. I really liked both Angel and Jimmy, and wanted them both to be okay and to succeed. I would have been way more upset than Angel showed when it turned out Mac was coming along too. In fact I've had something like that happen - and the person I didn't like was in my HOUSE - and it is AWFUL. 

I have also been in toxic fandoms, especially those for bands, and the book made me reflect on those and how awful they can be - and how awful fans can be. Angel repeatedly says that she 'loves' the boys and that she 'knows' them, neither of which are true. If you're a fan of a famous person all you see is the facet of themselves that they present to the public, and that doesn't include all of themselves. Angel has put so much of herself into the band, and barely knows who she is outside of them. 

I also want to talk about conspiracy theories like how fans here believe that Jimmy and Rowan are a couple and hiding it from the fandom. Theories like this aren't just 'cute' fan things - they are very real and very dangerous conspiracy theories. I know a lot about them, it's kind of an interest of mine. I'm thinking primarily of the Larry Stylinson conspiracy, which - as Louis and Harry have both stated time and again - isn't real, has never been real, is disrespectful to people they care about, negates the existence of Louis' son, which is disgusting, and which affected their friendship and the way they acted around each other. Angel definitely believes in the conspiracy in this book and it 'makes her believe in love' and she delights in theorising on clothes that the band wear. Band members in real life are not sending fans messages through their clothing or whatever else. There's a great bit towards the end of this book where Jimmy explains what a certain song is about - his grandma - and Angel is like, 'But fans think that's a shippy song about Jowan'. 

There's nothing wrong with shipping real people in fanfiction. I utterly believe that and stand by it. Using real people in fic is okay as long as the fourth wall is never broken. You're using archetypes of people you're a fan of, you're not using them as real humans because you do not know them. Shipping is fine. Tinhatting, when you believe that people are actually in a relationship, is a dangerous conspiracy theory and it really affects the real lives of people you're supposedly a fan of. Please avoid it. 

Sorry to rant, but this is something I believe in really passionately, and reading this book made me think of how toxic fandoms and toxic fans have negative impacts on people. And it's like the proverbial bad apple - a few toxic fans ruin the whole fandom. 


What age range is it for? I'm going to say 16+ thanks to mature themes 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Jimmy is trans, and his sexuality is a bit undecided I think. I think Angel veers towards asexual, too, which I liked. 


Are any main characters people of colour? Yeah - Angel's family is from Pakistan I think (I loved her conversations with her parents!) and Jimmy is half-Indian. I think Rowan is black, too. 


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, Jimmy's anxiety definitely counts as mental illness. The descriptions of his panic attacks were so well written, but they made me feel quite anxious reading them!


Is there any sex stuff? No 


Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes - I won't spoiler and it's not a huge part but it is there 


Is there any talk of death? Not really 


Are there swear words? Yes, loads, which I actually really liked. The boys talking to each other - especially when they were angry - really struck me as realistic, with a lot of judicious use of swear words. I loved it

 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none, really. I think the bad sides of fame were put over brilliantly. 


Would I recommend the book? Yes, especially if you've ever been in an all encompassing fandom 


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I'm trying to read all my birthday books! 

 

What do I think of the cover? It's cute 

 

What other books is it like? It reminded me of Kill The Boy Band


How many stars? Four out of five. 

 

Where is the book going now? I'll keep it - I hope to meet Alice in the future again so I can get it signed!

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