‘”I’m literally dying.” I said putting my hand on my heart. “You’re real.”
For Angel Rahimi life is about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything she loves – her friend Juliet, her dreams, her place in the world.
Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band with his mates is all he ever dreamed of doing.
But dreams don’t always turn out the way you think and when Jimmy and Angel are unexpectedly thrust together, they find out how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.
What I thought:
I loved the feeling and emotion in this book. Osman perfectly captures the feel of teenage freedom. The strength of being able to do anything but also things meaning more and feeling more instantly in general (annoyance turning to anger quickly and happiness turning to pure elation).
As a teenager my fandom was Doctor Who/Torchwood, I had my wall literally covered with pictures that I’d cut out of DWM (which I would buy twice, one to keep and one to cut up) and would watch at least 1 or 2 episodes each week. Now I still go to conventions and have a knitted dalek but I haven’t watched any Doctor Who/Torchwood since Christmas and the photos on my wall are all con ones. I still love the show and listen to a lot of the radio plays but it isn’t my life. It isn’t all as encompassing as it once was. My sister had the wall covered with Twilight pictures that she’d printed and I knew that if I said a word against it (incidentally I still call it Twig-let) she would flare up in defense. I don’t know when she last watched/read them but I do know that the photos no longer exist. Looking back I know that my emotions and thoughts about my fandom at the time were extreme, as was my sister’s (and I’m sure she’ll agree with me on this). But at the time loving something that much was normal.
And this feeling is what is captured so perfect in IWBFT, Angel’s love of The Ark is that kind of extreme love where the fandom is not only part of her life but it is her life and is who she is. There is no separation between them in her mind, she is defined by this love which causes her to do more extreme things that in her mind are perfectly logical. I also love how it’s the shared love of the Ark that causes her to meet her best friend even though at Angel sometimes struggles to see past that love. I’ve got friends online that mean the world to me but I’ve never met but know through fandom. Fandom can be great and bring people together but it can also be extremely toxic, and that part of it is also shown in this book. Someone throws a brick at the band, Jimmy is petrified by the screaming girls and the potential for things to go wrong, while other people automatically pour scorn on any one who claims to like the band at all, throwing them together into that ‘rapid fangirl’ mix.
One of the things that I have grown to love, and expect in Osman’s writing, and was perfectly done here as well, is the representation. The main thing is it’s just part of the characters, it’s not thrown in your face that Angel is Muslim or that Jimmy is trans, they simply are. It only matters when Angel has to make sure that no man can see her hair or that she quietly separates herself from others for evening prayer. The only reason anyone knows it about Jimmy is because of an accidental photo of them packing for the tour and the hormones not being completely hidden. That’s it, there is no NEED for Jimmy to be trans. He could have been born male and it would have made absolutely no difference to the story, Angel could be atheist or Catholic and it would have been the same. It perfectly sums up what life is like, you got to know both of them before you find out this aspect of their life and it doesn’t change your opinion (or at least it didn’t change mine) and it shouldn’t. It is simply one facet of their life and the story just glances over it. Which is what it’s like in real life. People just are. (Side note: I used to get really angry that people would expect me to hold opposing views purely because of my religion, someone asked me once about it in a uni lecture and after I blew up at them for supposing my beliefs. No one ever did it again)
Representation matters but it doesn’t need to be thrown in your face that LOOK THEY ARE GAY BUT THEY ARE ALSO LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE AND DISCRIMINATION IS BAD. It means just as much seeing Angel be a normal teenager who just happens to have a faith. Yes we need people to actively point out discrimination but the more they are shown as normal people the better.
The more important part of Jimmy’s character was his anxiety issues and the overthinking of everything . He also disassociates a lot which is something that people with anxiety do, by pulling themselves mentally out of the situation they can hold off on the panic or any form of emotion. The extreme way that Jimmy does this means that when he’s forced to stop the breakdown is quite extreme. But then he hasn’t been allowing himself to properly feel anything for weeks/months so the aftermath of that was always going to be big. Disassociation is a really big deal that a lot of people don’t often think about, watching the world from the outside is a lonely thing to do and can add to the never ending cycle of anxiety/depression, what if I never feel happy again/the worlds getting on find without me/I have no impact on anything. I really like the way it was shown here, people can help Jimmy and at times he can acknowledge their words but it might not change anything. Knowing something logically and understanding and acting on it are two very different things.
I also enjoyed the way the three different members of the Ark react different to fame and fortune, each one thinking he’s the odd one out. It really shows that this isn’t a cookie cut band made by cooperates so that girls will fall in love with them *coughOneDirectioncough*(cynical? Me?) but that none of them were ready for it and it causes problems in their friendship . Being under that much pressure and knowing that people are ‘in love’ with you must be difficult and cause a strain in any friendship/relationship
Why I read it:
I pre-ordered this one as I really enjoy Alice Osman’s other novels. Radio Silence is the only book I’ve ever read with an asexual character.
If you can’t tell I loved this book. I finished it and went ‘huh’ a bit and let myself think about it a bit but the more I think about it the more I realise just how much I love it. Finishing it brought me back down to earth with a shock.
It’s a great fun read that captures teenagers, fandom, friends, mental health issues, and a range of representation. Reading this book really pulled me back into that fandom mindset. Another brilliant book by Osman and any others of hers will be automatically put on the pre-order list.
Would I recommend: Yes! Radio Silence is still my favourite but I’m biased with the Ace character.
Popsugar: About mental health, song lyrics in the title (ok so it’s a song by the fictional band in the book but it still counts), published in 2018, problem facing society today.
Read Harder: One sitting.
Once again I was stupid enough to leave the memory stick with the correct review on at work, so I’m jumping ahead by one book.
Please let me know what you think of my review and of the book in general. I was worried that this one wasn’t going to live up to the hype but I’m so glad that it did.
P.S. I’ll bring the memory stick home with me on Monday so ‘Your Turn To Die’ will go up then.