Kill the Boy Band

I am a fangirl. I probably always have been, but we didn’t call ourselves that until recently. In my early years, I was crazy about the Smurfs, Rainbow Brite, She-Ra, and Barbara Mandrell (don’t ask). In my tween days, it was New Kids on the Block. (To be fair, I still like NKOTB. I’ve seen them in concert three times, and I’ll see them for the fourth time next month.) As a teenager, my Star Wars obsession really took off, and I now get all giddy about Harry Potter, Sherlock, Doctor Who, superheroes, and all sorts of other things. I totally own my fangirl ways. It makes me happy, and I’m not hurting anyone. And I guess that’s where I differ from the characters in my latest read, Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky.

In this book, told from the perspective of one girl (whose real name is never revealed), we are introduced to four superfans of the Ruperts, a British boy band in which every guy’s first name is–you guessed it–Rupert. These girls essentially became friends because of their mutual obsession with the Ruperts, and, so far, they’ve seen their beloved boy band in concert, gotten a few selfies, engaged in some light stalking, and one has devoted her life to creating a website all about the band. Now, though, they’re taking their fandom to a whole new level. They’re booking a room in the same New York hotel where the boys are staying. If only it ended there…

They really didn’t mean to kidnap one of the Ruperts. Granted, they got the worst one (every boy band has one), but still. They have a Rupert in their hotel room. But what should they do with him? Get him to reveal the band’s deep, dark secrets? Make him pose for some rather embarrassing photos? Let him go, no harm, no foul? (Yeah…that last one is not going to happen.)

With each passing minute, these fangirls get ever deeper into a mess of their own making. At any point, they could call a halt to what’s going on–and the narrator wants to on several occasions–but group dynamics are a tricky thing, and this whole situation quickly takes on a life of its own. Also, a couple of our girls may have their own reasons for wanting to cause as much chaos for their so-called favorite boy band as possible. They may not be ready, however, for just how much chaos is coming.

When the unthinkable happens, these fangirls find themselves in the midst of more trouble than they ever bargained for. How can they possibly get out of it? Will their friendships–and the Ruperts–survive this fiasco? There’s only one way to find out…

Never underestimate the power of teenage girls in large groups. Many celebrities know that girls can make or destroy a career in an instant. In this book, they do much more than that. Kill the Boy Band is a dark, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, look at fandom and just how much it can take over a person’s life. Most fangirls (and fanboys) don’t cross certain lines, but one need only look at Twitter, Snapchat, or any other social media platform to see the dark side of things–stalking, threats, etc. It happens. Yes, the girls in this book take things to the extreme and allow things to get away from them, but they also kind of serve as a cautionary tale on not allowing something to completely take over your life, especially at the expense of something as basic as morality.

I did like–and relate to–parts of this book, but one big thing ruined it for me. The narrator. She threatened to bow out of the whole situation multiple times. She told her friends what they were doing was wrong. She even left their hotel room. But she. Kept. Coming. Back. If she found everything to be so horrible, she had options. Walk away. Call her mom. Notify the police. Do something other than complain and fold under peer pressure. I realize that’s easy for me to say as an adult, but her actions–and inactions–really bothered me, maybe even more than some of the more heinous action in the book.

If you decide to recommend Kill the Boy Band to readers, it’s probably not a good fit for middle grade readers. It contains profanity, some sexual situations, conversations, and innuendo, and a fair amount law-breaking. I’d probably give this book to mature teen and adult readers who’ll realize that this is not a how-to manual on getting way too close to their favorite celebrities…or getting away with murder. (Did I mean that last bit literally or figuratively? I’ll leave that for you to discover.)

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy

I am a fangirl. (This likely shocks no one.) I totally geek out over Star Wars, Harry Potter, all things Marvel, Sherlock, Doctor Who, Supernatural, The Princess Bride, Firefly, YA literature, and way too many other things to name. I make no apologies for my preference for fictional worlds over reality. It’s just how I roll.

So, when I got the chance to read something titled The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks, I jumped on it. (Thanks once again to NetGalley!) In this book, Sam Maggs gives her fellow fangirls a bit of a guide to navigating geek culture, often seen as somewhat male-dominated. She presents information on various different fandoms (sometimes oversimplified, but whatever), being a fangirl online, surviving and thriving at conventions, and what it may mean to be a fangirl feminist. Between each chapter are interviews with famous fangirls, each talking about what the term means to them and advice for their fellow geek girls.

In the very first chapter of this book, Maggs talks about some of the major fandoms: Harry Potter, SuperWhoLock (Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock), Lord of the Rings, Otaku (anime and manga), Star Trek, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Marvel, DC, YA literature, Whedonites, and gaming. (You may have noticed that I fangirl over many these.) Now, Maggs is the first to admit that she’s left out/glossed over quite a few fandoms, and that’s okay. What’s not okay, then? Well, in my personal opinion (for whatever that’s worth), as much as I love the idea of a potential meeting between Sam, Dean, Castiel, the Doctor, Sherlock, and Watson, each of these fandoms should be given their own space. They’re all great in their own right.

The Fangirl’s Guide also introduces noobs to “fangirl-speak.” I’m not going to go into all of that here, but it is a nice primer if you’re confused about the difference between canon and headcanon, wonder why “feelings” has become “feels,” or have no idea what someone is talking about when they go crazy over their OTP or ship.

Maggs wraps up the first chapter with advice on how to get involved in geek culture IRL (in real life). She goes into how to meet up with like-minded nerds, how to convert friends into fangirls, and how you can “let your geek flag fly.” All of her suggestions are great…unless you suffer from near-crippling social anxiety. Then, you’re better served by connecting online…which leads me to the next chapter.

Chapter two, Geek Girls Online, discusses the various platforms for connecting with other fangirls (or fanboys), writing fanfiction (or creating any other type of fan art), and what to do about the loathsome Internet trolls. While I didn’t get a ton of new information out of this chapter, I do think it has loads of great advice for those somewhat new to being a fangirl. What’s important is to find the right platform for you and interact respectfully with your fellow geeks.

The third chapter, How to Survive Conventions, filled me with so much anxiety that I can’t even. Just the thought of so many people in one place gives me hives. That being said, Maggs gives a quick run-down of the major cons and their associated fandoms, what to expect at a con, planning and packing advice, choosing the perfect cosplay for you, and coming down from your time at a con. A great resource for someone looking for the ideal con for their interests.

I was pleasantly surprised to see one on the list that I actually do attend–YALLFest, a free YA book festival in Charleston each November. There’s just one problem, though. This festival is in SOUTH CAROLINA, not North Carolina. Hopefully, the author, editor, or someone else caught this pretty major error before this book went to print.

Chapter four is all about Geek Girl Feminism, something that’s been getting a lot more traction lately. With things like GamerGate in the news, it’s no wonder. (Look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) As a longtime feminist, I truly appreciate this chapter and its message of equality for all. Geek culture is something that’s supposed to be all-inclusive. After all, we know what it’s like to be excluded, ridiculed, bullied, and the like. Do any of us really want to have a part in making others feel that way? In this chapter, Maggs talks a bit about some fangirl feminist terminology that people should be familiar with (privilege, mansplaining, objectification, male gaze, etc.), myths about modern feminism, and kick-butt female characters in comics, books, TV, movies, and gaming. She also encourages her fellow fangirl feminists to call our fandoms out when they show misogynistic tendencies.

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy wraps up with some resources for further exploration. Most of these are blogs, shops, or YouTube channels that lead fangirls to new ideas in all sorts of geek culture: math, coding, science, fashion, cosplay, and much, much more.

All in all, I think this guide is great for fangirls who may be new to geek culture…or those who just want to know what in the heck the fangirls around them are talking about. If you’ve been a girl geek for a while, some of this info may be old news, but it never hurts to have a refresher. Even I–a fangirl for more than 30 years–learned something new in this book. I’m guessing you will, too.

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy drops in stores and online on May 12th. I think this book would be an especially great addition to high school libraries. In fact, any library that serves a large YA population should add this book to its collection. Your patrons will thank you.

For more information on this book and author Sam Maggs, you can connect with Sam on her website or Twitter.

Have fun out there!