Now and again, a book comes along that, when you hear someone hasn’t read it yet, makes you see red. I Was Born For This is one of them. Where do I start with the stunner of a novel that is I Was Born For This? The dual narration in this novel is sheer perfection – one boy, one girl; one band member, one fan; one famous, one almost famous (at least in the world of fandom). Jimmy and Angel are two people brought together by the wonder that is fandom, and kept together through chance and kindness.
IWBFT is a novel about friendship and idolisation, and explores what is real within fandom and out. Through Angel, online culture of friendships, discourse and theory-creation is explored respectfully and honestly, with fans never criticised for their love of creators or their art. But alongside this, Alice Oseman manages to portray the pressures of fame, and the struggles of trying to be a normal person when the world expects you to be so much more, through Jimmy. Angel’s pilgrimage (and her journey does come across as spiritual in nature as she leaves her parents and travels a great distance alone to be with the people who share her passion, and to see her gods – The Ark – face to face) is seen both from her point of view, where she has invested money, time and years of her life in dedication to the band, but also from characters who do not understand her joy, such as her friend Juliet’s grandmother, and her own parents. The crush of someone you love not understanding why you love something is expertly portrayed, and a feeling we can probably all relate to.
It has to be noted that IWBFT has a diverse cast of characters, including the two main characters who are both people of colour – one a hijabi girl and the other a young trans man. Supporting characters are fleshed-out and very real, particularly Jimmy’s band-mates Lister and Rowan, and you will want to adopt all three of them by the end. Jimmy’s mental health struggles are well-written and explored carefully without being played for a reaction by Oseman, and if you have ever had to pretend to be enjoying something, you will relate.
This is a book that deserves to be read far and wide, and undoubtedly deserves to sell cartloads. Alice Oseman’s queue at YALC was a sight to behold, and with her Kickstarter for the paper copies of her webcomic Heartstopper passing its target by almost 700%, Alice Oseman is an author to watch, but, more importantly, to read.