Oseman, Alice. I Was Born for This. New York: Scholastic Press, 2022.
ISBN-13: 978-1338830934 | $18.99 USD | 384 pages | YA Contemporary
From the bestselling creator of Heartstopper and Loveless, a deeply funny and deeply moving exploration of identity, friendship, and fame.
For Angel Rahimi life is about one thing: The Ark — a boy band that’s 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. Her Muslim family doesn’t understand the band’s allure — but Angel feels there are things about her they’ll never understand.
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, even it only amplifies his anxiety. The fans are very accepting that he’s trans — but they also keep shipping with him with his longtime friend and bandmate, Rowan. But Jimmy and Rowan are just friends — and Rowan has a secret girlfriend the fans can never know about. 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.
A funny, wise, and heartbreakingly true coming of age novel. I Was Born for This is a stunning reflection of modern teenage life, and the power of believing in something — especially yourself.
Just like with Loveless, I was excited to check out I Was Born for This upon its publication in the US. I continue to appreciate Alice Oseman’s knack for writing truly unique, emotionally moving, warm-hug queer books that also delve deep into topics that aren’t often explored in fiction, and this one is no different.
There’s been an explosion of fandom, and especially boy band centric books lately, and while they touch on some of the mental health issues caused by the industry, I appreciate that Oseman takes things in a different direction. To explore the deeply personal connections between not only the fans and the idols, but between idols themselves and between fans, and to not have it be romance focused, is so beautiful. There’s a stereotype of fangirls as being weird or obsessed, and while there is some representation of that, I love how the primary goal is to show the positive side, especially when the characters are all going through a lot of turmoil. I also appreciate that, while Jimmy and Angel are both queer, it’s not the queer identity specifically that causes these issues.
On Angel’s side of things, there’s beauty in the bond she forms with Juliet, a fellow fan of the Ark she only just met in person, but has had a longstanding Internet friendship with. There’s some confusion as Juliet is also hanging around with a slightly toxic guy who lied about liking the Ark to get to know her, and Angel feels some jealousy thinking there’s an attraction and potential relationship there.
I absolutely loved the anxiety and mental health rep when it comes to what Jimmy experiences. He deals with panic attacks and he carries a knife that his grandfather gave him for protection and security (which also plays a role in a crucial plot point late in the story). He also has such complex relationships with his bandmates. He and Rowan grew up together, and people keep shipping them, even though Rowan is straight (as well as having a secret girlfriend). Jimmy’s other bandmate, Lister, however, is revealed to have some unresolved, unrequited feelings for him.
I love the way the two character arcs intersect, at first rather subtly, then converging completely. The secondary characters, especially the ones in Jimmy’s life, all feel fully fleshed out and the subplots involving them are incorporated to the best extent possible (along with a lovely bonus short at the end showing what Lister and Rowan got up to when Jimmy was “missing”).
I adored this book, and enthusiastically recommend it to anyone, especially if you’re looking for queer books about fandom culture.
Alice Oseman is an award-winning author, illustrator, and screenwriter, and was born in 1994 in Kent, England. She has written four YA contemporary novels about teenage disasters: Solitaire, Radio Silence, I Was Born for This, and Loveless. She is the creator of LGBTQ+ YA romance webcomic Heartstopper, which is now published in physical form by Hachette Children’s Group, and she is the writer, creator, and executive producer for the television adaptation of Heartstopper, which is set to be released on Netflix.
Alice’s first novel Solitaire was published when she was nineteen. Her YA novels have been nominated for the YA Book Prize, the Inky Awards, the Carnegie Medal, and the Goodreads Choice Awards.
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