I was wary of reading the young adult novel Kill The Boy Band. Don’t get me wrong, the title hooked me right away. Goldy Moldavsky and the publisher knew what they were doing when they titled the book and put the script in highlighter pink (the ads on my Tumblr didn’t hurt as far as promotion is concerned either). My interest was piqued. However, I was troubled by an interview I’d seen in the Observer, which made it sound like the book was a judgment call being passed on “fangirls.” As a fangirl—as a girl invested in a boy band herself—I was wary of what this book would have to say about me.
Already from the About The Book on Scholastic’s website, I grew concerned. The narrator says, “We are fans. Okay, superfans who spend all of our free time tweeting about the boys and updating our fan tumblrs. But so what, that’s what you do when you love a group so much it hurts.” The phrasing here seems to beg for laughs from readers.
I’m not saying I haven’t at my worst moments expressed that same type of gleeful judgment, trepidation, and shock at fan behavior that I felt had crossed a line. A girl fainted next to me in Detroit when 5 Seconds of Summer took the stage prior to One Direction’s concert, and I froze in panic and then broke into laughter when I looked at my best friend. (Yes, I made sure this girl was ok; I also inwardly thought, “I’m glad we express our adoration differently.”) I just couldn’t find that type of fervor for Ashton Irwin.
So in a world intent on telling girls how to dress, act, and talk, I was a little nervous to start Kill The Boy Band. I feel so protective of the real world fandom us girls have all created–the men’s bathrooms at venues converted into women’s bathroom, meet-ups before concerts with people we’ve only met on the Internet, but who are soon to be IRL friends. The hushed silence that descends on an auditorium when the boys you’ve reblogged on Tumblr transform from pixels to flesh. Teen girls don’t need to be told to love in moderation. Society is already telling them to eat smaller portions, to take up less space. Girls are not allowed anything in excess, and that extends to the way they must love pop culture.
Kill The Boy Band is a fast read. I should start there. I devoured the book. Goldy Moldavsky creates a world rich with today’s social media platforms. This book cannot be separated from our current landscape. The Ruperts, the boy band of the title, are a conglomeration of 90’s acts (*NSYNC, The Backstreet Boys) and today’s rock acts (One Direction). As much as this book is fiction, there are moments when it reads like non-fiction. If you’re a “fangirl,” the shorthand on fanfic and investigation into lives of beloved boy band members is familiar territory. Goldy pushes the envelope in order to ask thought-provoking questions about what fandom can eventually look like.
The book opens promisingly: “Fangirls get a bad rap all the time. They say we’re weird, hysterical, obsessed, certifiable. But those people don’t understand. Just because I love something a lot doesn’t mean I’m crazy.” Sixty pages in, when a dude confronts the narrator about her feelings on boy bands, I cheered as her internal monologue stated, “When you find something that makes you happy and giddy and excited every day, us fangirls know a truth that everyone else seems to have forgotten: You hold on to that joy tenaciously.” Goldy, here, correctly understands the mindset of what it means to be in a fandom, but later I felt let down by the idea that kept appearing throughout about growing up and out of fandom culture: that these girls have wasted time, energy, friendships on boys who don’t deserve them.
Maybe it’s due to my Cancer horoscope, my weak inner constitution, and my deep-rooted hatred of criticism, but I can’t help but be angry that Goldy ultimately ridicules the adoration teen girls feel for boy bands. I hope no one who picks up Kill The Boy Band reflects on their time loving a boy band with self-hatred. I hope they can remember how it feels to love something larger than yourself – something that you helped create. The Ruperts of Kill The Boy Band only exist because of these teen girls (Erin, Isabel, Apple, and the unnamed narrator). There is a power in that.
Yes, their loyalties might change. We can all be fickle. We can all move on. However, we shouldn’t judge our former selves for what we needed in order to survive day to day. The GIFs, Snapchats, Instagrams, and memes are fleeting but what they give us is not. The laughs we shared with Internet friends a whole continent away, our fangirl kin that understood exactly what we meant when we used emojis to describe the latest shirtless selfie of our fav.
Kill The Boy Band succeeds in being readable, knowledgeable entertainment, but I worry about the passages where the book seems to say: One Direction is sure to let you down the same way The Ruperts have let down these girls. I’m uncomfortable with that assertion. I don’t think we have to be embarrassed by the pop culture we use as shorthand. I think there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Yes, it’s good to look deeper at the allegiances girls have to boy bands. But to paraphrase one of the pivotal characters, I don’t think we should be telling girls that their passion and power can be better utilized. I don’t see men being taught that they need to set down their remote controls in order to wield their brainpower in other mediums.
I urge witchsong readers to pick up their own copy from a local library, independent bookstore or Barnes & Noble, and let me know what they thought. In the meantime, I’ll be blasting One Direction’s “Change Your Ticket.”