Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
published by Macmillan on May 19th 2016
- young adult, contemporary
- paperback ARC 320 pages
- find out more on Goodreads
- buy on Amazon / buy on The Book Depository
★★★★ 4.5 STARS
Thank you to Macmillan for sending me an ARC of this book! All thoughts and opinions are my honest own. Quoted excerpts liable to change in finished copy.
Kill the Boy Band has been on my radar for just about forever. The people behind its marketing and publicity campaign are hella good at their job because I was already gripped before I’d even opened the first page. It tells the story of four girls inexplicably linked by their deep love for British boy band ‘The Ruperts’, who they would do anything to meet. When it’s announced that the band are coming to New York for a special, intimate Thanksgiving show the girls make it their mission to snag tickets and, when they don’t manage it, move onto the next best thing: booking a room in the same hotel.
“There was no point being a fan these days if you weren’t willing to go the extra mile for your idols. It wasn’t enough any more to send them fan mail and kiss the posters above our beds. Theses days you weren’t a true fan until you engaged in Twitter death threats and endless stan wars.”
The charm of this novel is how many things it manages to be at once. Somehow Moldavsky has seamlessly pulled out an insane debut that is half murder mystery, half thoughtful insight into the world of the fangirl. Now, I’ve seen my fair share of crazy boy band fans, and some might even go as far as to say I am one myself – but I’m not. Not really. Because the things I’ve seen girls do just to get a glimpse of their idols is mind boggling to me, and even though this rapidly escalating plot might seem far-fetched to some, for someone who has been right there – an observer in the eye of the storm – it’s far from it. So when Apple arrives back at the girls’ hotel room dragging an unconscious member of The Ruperts by the ankle, I really wasn’t that surprised at all.
Throughout, the charming narrator litters the book with intelligent commentary on whether fangirls truly are crazy. I loved that this didn’t seem that forced at all, even though examining fandom culture is practically the whole premise of the book. It pokes fun at the extremes fans go to but also does a nice job of defending it – to a certain extent. After all, many of these girls are young and impressionable and just want to swoon over a few fairly attractive, semi-talented boys. Here’s a nice little quote I think sums up some of it:
“‘Maybe obsessing over a boy band is stupid. But so what? You say that us fans are the worst thing that’s happened to society but all we’re doing is loving cute boys. Is that really so bad?'”
But then of course, there isn’t really a way Moldavsky can justify the escalation that happens after Apple kidnaps Rupert Pierpont. Suddenly the girls have a flop of a boy band member in their hotel room, tied up in hot pink tights, and they haven’t got a clue what to do. The different girls’ personalities really shine through here and the actions they decide set them apart as distinct individuals. Aside for the main character, who just wishes they would let him go so they could all get back to their normal lives, each girl has her own ulterior motive: Apple wants to keep Rupert P. tied up because she adores him beyond anything else, Isabel thinks she can blackmail him into helping her get more hits on her blog, and Erin, well…. Erin has her own plan. She wants to kill the boy band.
Well – not literally. But a big twist that eventually comes into play takes the story to a whole new, crazy level of depth. Not only does Kill the Boy Band explore the sanity of fangirls but it also strays into the territory of how fame affects the boy banders themselves. In several key moments we see Rupert P. turn savagely against his kidnappers as well as his innocent fans, condemning them all to hell because of the celebrity status they’ve thrust upon him. There is an edge that many famous people teeter on and it seems that Rupert P., like so many before him, has snapped under the pressure. But that’s not the worst of it… In particular, there is a very harrowing revelation which reminds the reader that even those you love the most can abuse you, use you, and throw you into the trash without a second thought. It is this element of the novel, above anything else, that really took it into another league for me.
“I told you I was saving myself for Rupert X. And I did.”
However, as you can probably guess by the 0.5 stars I marked this down for, there is something about the novel that made me kind of unsettled (in a bad way) and I’m really kind of sad about it. As dark and satirical as Kill the Boy Band may be there are a number of uncomfortable stereotypes set forth about Apple that just don’t sit right. Apple is a fat, Chinese girl who was adopted by her American parents so whilst this intersectionality is phenomenal, the portrayal of Apple as an overweight girl is not up to par with the rest of Moldovsky’s incredible writing. The lines between satire and stereotypes are much blurrier than what I would enjoy; there isn’t a single, positive thing said in regards to Apple’s weight or self-esteem and it’s a massive let down. The jokes weren’t ever even funny, all they did was make me feel sympathetic for the poor girl. I mean, she supposedly brought a suitcase to the hotel that was big enough to fit a body in (#confirmed) and filled it only with popcorn (this is absurd). I just don’t understand what the fat jokes added to the story.
That being said, the main character’s progressive deterioration made me thrive. I absolutely adore unreliable narrators and getting to see her slowly lose sense of herself and begin to question her own guilt made me so so excited. It’s truly stellar writing to have the narrator be unreliable but for you, as the reader, to be so completely enraptured that you don’t quite realise she can’t be trusted until you reach the end.
“They were just boys. Take away the band, the lights, the fame, and the screaming girls, and they were just boys, chosen for us to obsess over.”
If it weren’t for my issues with Apple’s representation this book would’ve gotten a shining 5 stars from me. As it stands, I’ve still given it a hefty 4.5 stars because I think it’s an incredible, astounding debut that deals with my favourite topics and questions the exact things about fandom culture that need to be questioned. Kill the Boy Band falls on neither side of the ‘fangirl insanity’ scale; it’s far too complex for that. Who’s really to blame for the radical events of the book? The girls, and their unflinching desire to see the band for who they really are, or the boys who draw them in? Draw your own conclusions.
you’ll love this if…
- You’re looking for a music-equivalent to Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (sorta).
- Black humour and sharp satire is your thing.
- You were once/are an intense fangirl who is also capable of some serious critical thinking.