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‘I Was Born for This’ by Alice Oseman review: delving into fandom and boybands

Being an avid and unashamed reader of young adult fiction, it was inevitable that I would stumble upon Alice Oseman’s books. Since her romantic comic series, Heartstopper, catapulted into fame in the late 2010s, I’ve been exploring the Osemanverse in my spare time. I adored the sweet romances in all four volumes of Heartstopper and appreciated the representation of a genuine high school experience in the Netflix series of the same name. Who knew that having actual teenagers playing teenagers would bring a degree of realism to teen TV? I wasn’t a big fan of Solitaire, Oseman’s first novel which was published when she was just 18, and briefly concluded that Oseman’s talents were more in comics than novels – but I gave her novels another chance and was thankfully proved wrong.

Her novel Loveless was a wonderful story about Georgia’s discovery of her asexuality and aromanticism. I loved the story’s message about love being so much more than romance. Next, I read Nick and Charlie, an entertaining short story about relationship tension between the titular characters in Heartstopper, with Nick heading off to university and Charlie being left behind at Truham Sixth Form.

And now, I’ll get onto the book this review is about – I Was Born For This. It’s a book about fandom and celebrities, with Angel, Juliet, and Mac being fans and Jimmy, Lister, and Rowan being members of the world-famous pop-rock boy band: The Ark. The book alternates between Angel and Jimmy’s points of view, giving an insight into the life of a fangirl and of a celebrity.

Angel ‘Fereshteh’ Rahimi is a die-hard fangirl who loves The Ark, so much so that she has travelled to London to meet an online fangirl friend for the first time and to go to one of the band’s concerts. The hope she finds in The Ark is inspiring and also confusing in an “otherwise mediocre existence”, she chooses to feel passion, yet when she meets Jimmy, she realises that she doesn’t know “our boys” as much as she thought she did.

There is always something to keep you reading in this book, meeting Juliet, The Ark signing, the concert, as well as mysteries that unfold slowly and satisfactorily

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci is the lead vocalist of The Ark. He has a passion for music, but he finds the demands of the music industry draining. Doing signings, playing at concerts, and attending awards shows is a lot for a teenager to handle, and as an unwanted news story comes out and there’s a new contract to sign that demands more time on tour and more albums, the boys are pushed to breaking point. Jimmy increasingly begins to question whether fame is worthwhile, thinking it “must be nice to just … be a person”.

The writing style is engaging, filled with funny conversations and thought-provoking phrases. One phrase that particularly struck me was Jimmy’s observation that “we don’t live in the real world anymore”. Social media makes fangirls think that they know their favourite boy band members when they’ve never met them, and all the information they get about them is carefully curated. They don’t hear about the less pleasant things, like Jimmy’s severe anxiety and Lister’s alcoholism. It also made me question how real our everyday lives are now when we spend most of our lives on a screen, living vicariously through TV series and films.

There is always something to keep you reading in this book, meeting Juliet, The Ark signing, the concert, as well as mysteries that unfold slowly and satisfactorily. I was constantly wondering if Jimmy would stay in The Ark or quit for good; I was also curious to see how Angel and Jimmy’s friendship would evolve.

Angel’s character arc (if you’ll pardon the pun) was the most satisfying. I loved seeing her grow from someone who cares about nothing but a boy band to someone who cares about her friends beyond talking about The Ark and sees a bright future for herself (even if she isn’t the brightest girl in the world); at one point in the book, she says: “Maybe tomorrow I’ll do something else. Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up and think about me and what I want. Maybe tomorrow I’ll believe in something other than boys on a screen.”

I would’ve liked to see more of Jimmy’s personality, however, as I felt that his anxiety consumed most of his narrative. This may be realistic since he has severe anxiety, but I still wanted more depth of character. My only other criticism is that some of the points the characters made felt preachy, like Angel’s explanation of how fangirls mostly don’t fancy the boy band members. Overall, although I wouldn’t count myself as a member of any fandom, it was an interesting and enjoyable read.

Rating: 4/5


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