Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Summary: “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” (Goodreads).
This is a hard book to review because it has stronger writing than both of Alice Oseman’s other books (and that’s saying something considering Radio Silence is one of my favorite books ever), but I didn’t connect to the plot. Don’t get me wrong, I love this, and in some ways I prefer it over Solitaire (though not Radio Silence). However, this book is about music fandoms, and while music is of great importance in my life, I have never been in one of their fandoms. I don’t like boy bands or K-Pop and I may love We the Kings and Linkin Park, but I can’t even tell you the names of the musicians in them. I couldn’t relate to Angel as I could to Tori in Solitaire or Frances in Radio Silence. I couldn’t relate to the message either, that it was truly worth it for Angel to have thrown most of her life away for a band. A part of me might have been able to understand it because of how much I love books, but I also don’t think it’s the healthiest message. There’s more to lives than fantasy, even if that fantasy can be healing. Some of the best things for us are good in moderation.
But, with that said, there is an important message underneath that: that fandoms can be really toxic to musicians. Jimmy has severe anxiety and what the fandom does, twist his relationships around into romance and what-not, is really damaging to him. This is an immensely important message in the age of shipping One Direction members to the point that it impacted their friendships, in the age of Dan and Phil tired of people wanting them in a relationship. Do fandoms not see that shipping real people hurts the people involved? They’re not characters…they’re people, humans, with lives off-screen and off-stage.
I really appreciated this message, even if I couldn’t connect so much to it.
Most adults see teenagers as confused kids who don’t understand much, while they’re the pillars of knowledge and experience and know exactly what is right at all times.
I think the truth is that everyone in the entire world is confused and nobody understands much of anything at all.”
Some people have regarded it as Alice Oseman’s best book by far and I can understand why. Fundamentally, it has more plot than either of her other books. It’s written better (even if I got the UK version and couldn’t understand half the words used, I could see that). But it didn’t hit home so hard as Radio Silence did for me, which most people know is one of my all-time favorite books at this point.
Of the things I did like (and there are many), I loved the two POV characters, Angel and Jimmy. Angel is a Muslim woman and Jimmy is a transgender man. The diversity in Oseman’s books is amazing and so…real. It never feels forced.
Angel’s character was hard to relate to, as I’ve already stated, but I really enjoyed reading about her. I could understand the jealousy she faced with Juliet, because I encounter that all the time with my own friends. I loved that it focused on other friendships (which I really shouldn’t have been surprised about; Oseman is a bit predictable in that aspect), even if I may have shipped Angel with someone…
As for Jimmy, his anxiety was really tangible for me, as someone who has issues with it herself (albeit less severe). He was my favorite character in this book by far. I liked how his relationship with Lister didn’t develop beyond friendship in the book, but left room for the imagination. Neither of them were in a place for a relationship by the end of the novel, but I think, in time, they could be. I haven’t read a book with a character who is an alcoholic (and isn’t an abusive father) before, so reading Lister’s story was very interesting for me. I think Oseman handled it well, as she does most things.
The ending, though, out of all of this book, was the most powerful part. It had the necessary kick and then some. It left things bittersweet. It gave us an opening for more, for joy, but wasn’t perfect. And that’s how the best endings are.
The verdict? This was a very, very good book, but the fandom aspect didn’t work for me. It was still a solid four star read, and whenever I think of it, I think of the good things first.
I recommend this book first and foremost for anyone who has been in a music fandom, and then secondly to anyone who ever feels misunderstood.
In an otherwise mediocre existence, we chose to feel passion.”