Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
Release Date: February 23rd 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Just know from the start that it wasn't supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near them. That's why we got a room in the hotel where they were staying. We were not planning to kidnap one of them. Especially not the most useless one. But we had him-his room key, his cell phone, and his secrets. We were not planning on what happened next. We swear. From thrilling new talent Goldy Moldavsky comes a pitch-black, hilarious take on fandom and the badass girls who have the power to make-or break-the people we call "celebrities."
This is one of those books I wanted to like so much. When I heard about it, I was super excited, but the reality is the book just doesn’t live up to the hype. In fact, it’s highly problematic.
Before I truly dive into what I had issues with, I want to mention that Moldavsky does weave an interesting murder-mystery tale. I was intrigued by the basic plot and it held my attention enough to finish the book. However, whatever potential it had was lost in passages that upset me.
I’m not going to go into the fat shaming because Sarah over at Women Write About Comics did a good job of that already. Anything I would have pointed out, she already has. I will admit that the tackle scene did not bother me as much as everyone else. Mainly, it’s because by this point, I was already outraged by the fandom passages, which I’ll talk about in a moment. However, the passage that did get me was this:
Her appearance was one of Apple’s main hang-ups. That was what she saw in the mirror everyday and the conclusion she always jump to when things didn’t go right in her life. And, I’m certain, it was always a reason she chose Rupert P. —- out of all the Ruperts —to love the most. I had a theory that choosing which boy to love in a boy band has a lot about a person…..I think April loved Rupert P. because she couldn’t even envision herself being loved by one of the cute boys. She loved him because he was the only one who she thought could possibly love her back.
I think that boy bands don’t worry about having a snaggle-tooth of an ugly member in their otherwise perfect row of teeth — boys — because they know that there are girls like Apple out there. Girls who really don’t like themselves enough to aim higher. (p 82-83)
No, just no. No. No. No. And I know, there’s a spark to truth in girls thinking they can’t aim higher, but this is because society continuously tells girls like Apple they’re not good enough. Can we please just stop pushing this ideology? Please and thank you.
All right, so fat shaming. Check. Making fandoms look like crazies? HUGE CHECK. I’ll be honest, this is where the book lost me. I know people will come at me and say BUT IT’S A SATIRE, but it didn’t work well as one for me. There are too many moments that speak of reality and what is actually happening in the world of social media that are quite scary. For example, threatening tweets. Here’s the passage about the type of things that Isabel sends:
Isabel’s infamous tweets range from the cartoonish and impossible:
I’m going to pull ur tongue out of ur mouth wrap it around ur neck n strangle u w it so hard ur eyes will pop out. i will pee in the sockets.
To the quaint:
get your funcking hands off him bitch I will cut u. # RupertLIsMine (knife emojis)
To the cryptically disturbing:
I watch u in ur sleep. (p 24-25)
To me, these are too real. I know people who get tweets like this–or worse. There is nothing funny about them. It’s scary and disturbing and wrong. I suppose if you didn’t know social media well enough you would think they were over the top, but they’re not and they’re many people’s reality. And while the main character does seem to condemn those tweets, that type of attitude is basically what Isabel is all about.
The picture of fandoms that Moldavsky paints wildly varies depending on where you are in the book. At one point we get this
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 anymore to send them fanmail and kiss the posters above our beds. These days you weren’t a true fan until you engaged in Twitter death threats and endless stan wars. The fandom landscape was peppered with land mines, and there was no other way to navigate it but to walk until you hit one. You come out the other side a little crazier, yeah, but you’re also stronger. You are a true believer. You’ll do anything for the object of your affection. (p 32)
And then no more than 30 pages later we get this
Other people may have seen fangirls as crazy teenage girls obsessed with a fad, but they couldn’t understand the small but important joy you can get from indulging in these fandoms. They didn’t understand that a new gif of Rupert K. grinning at you could be the difference between a crap day and a beautiful one. They didn’t get the friendship that forms, the community of people who shared in your same joy. Maybe it was obsession, but it was also happiness; an escape from the suckiness of everyday life. (pg 63)
So, which is it? Are they crazy obsessed teenagers or just a community that finds joy together? I suppose you could argue for both, but that second quote? Man, that’s what fandom is all about. That quote really hits at the heart of what they are and why people love and cling to them. When I saw that passage, I had hope that Moldavsky was going to give me something good. Instead, she goes back to painting them all as crazy. In fact, when a plea is sent out to the fangirls by one of the Ruperts to help find the missing Rupert, the girls start climbing the scaffold and busting into the hotel. I suppose you could argue that the over-the-top is where the whole satire/humor comes in, but to me, it felt more like shaming than anything else.
There are many other passages that I could point out and use, but I fear they would make this review even longer than it is. And honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other issues with race, sexual assault, and homophobia that are being pushed aside because it’s a “satire”. I know this will be a controversial review, but I just can’t support or recommend a book that is this problematic.
Final Verdict: Kill the Boy Band tried, oh did it try, but sadly it failed miserably in my eyes.