Yesterday was the publication of Alice Oseman’s newest (or do we say latest?) book; I Was Born For This- which I fucking loved by the way. Thanks to Alex for sending me a copy!
As I was reading IWBFT my bae (she’s totally awesome and her name fits the term)
Author Alice Oseman, photo credit: her Goodreads author photo
Layla, (I call her Laybae) had finished IWBFT so naturally, we needed to do a joint blog post about the book because it’s freaking awesome and yeah, we needed to get our love for it down.
IWBFT is a multiple POV story about a transgender singer; Jimmy and one of his fans, a Muslim teenager, Angel (she is rad and chill and just omg need her in my life). I cannot possibly say anymore as I want you to go into it like I did, knowing absolutely nothing (it often leads to the best feelings when reading)
What follows are questions (10 to be precise) and our answers. Each of us have posted a post with both sets of answers but we may have formatted them differently or done some wild thing!
Here is a link to Layla’s blog post (she can be found here @ Readable Life)
Anyhoo, without further ado, here’s my post of our mini Q&A all about I Was Born For This!
Who is your favourite character in the book?
Jemima: Haven’t even answered one question yet and it’s already killing me to answer! I really love Angel so can I say her? Yep I’m going with Angel. I found myself relating so much to Angel, meeting boybands and talking about shipping? That’s like my everyday! Okay maybe not so much the meeting boybands everyday but the fandom elements? Totally identifiable. Its so freaking clear that Alice did her research (And is obviously a part of fandoms) and how much people rely on and cling to them. It can be messy and scary but it can also be full of genuinely lovely people who want to do nothing more than smile and be nice, of which I hope I fall into the latter category in terms of fan.
Layla: For me, this definitely has to be Lister Bird. Lister is an incredibly relatable and real character. He gets over excited, he has flaws and problems, and he deals with his issues in the worst possible way – hiding behind a mask. Lister is a completely unfiltered character who doesn’t want to get trampled on.
What about your favourite scene?
Jemima: It’s hard to have a favourite and not spoil anything! I guess one of my favourite scenes was at the very beginning when Angel and Juliet met. It was such a pure and sweet moment and for me, incredibly realistic. Earlier this year I met up with Layla in the middle of London and it brought back many memories and is so realistic. That entire scene is a homage to friends who you meet online and eventually see in person. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling and makes you smile because these are the people who you only speak to via taps on a keyboard or words via skype so when you meet them in the real world it’s just…so damn good.
Layla: My favourite scene, without giving away any spoilers, has to be the birthday scene. All the boys are so carefree and instantly transported back to a time where life wasn’t as stressful for them. Worries are forgotten, laughs are had, and it’s such a lovely tender scene in the book.
There are dual POV’s in this book, did it work for you?
Jemima: Hell yes! Usually dual POV’s put me off books or just make me enjoy them less but not in this case. Alice weaves two strong stories through each POV and ends each one making you want to find out the next part. I especially loved when little moments from each POV were weaved into the other one. It also helped that we heard from the “fan” and the “Idol” as it really does make you think how far obsessions can go and just what effect they have on the idol, not just the fan.
Layla: Yes definitely. I enjoy books with dual POV done well, and I think this was a perfect way to showcase this. We get to see both sides of the story; the fan and the idol. I think these worked perfectly together, and meant that as the reader I could get a glimpse into the different types of life.
The book shows various “types” of fan, which of them do you think you are?
Jemima: I’d like to think I am an excitable fan but in a good way. I love appreciating the artist and their works, but I also appreciate they have a private life and so wouldn’t be angry or have ill-wishes toward their partners. In the past I was more of a jealous fan in that sense, but I have grown more mature in those cases, however, I have never wished any harm upon a artist/ their partner. I also like to indulge in fan art and merch. In regard to fanfiction, it’s fun, it’s a great way to release emotions that you cannot otherwise express and hey it can help develop your writing ability! I like to think of fanfiction as mini NaNoWriMo’s. Some of them can be over a novels work but you just know you’ll demolish it in a day (despite having a glaring TBR pile to deal with)!
Layla: I’d like to think I’m quite a good type of fan. I’m not one of those who gets angry at their idols having partners, nor do I wish them ill. I like to buy fanart and merch, and will get excited at certain things a band, author or actor will do – say if my favourite actor has been cast in something amazing. I’m a quiet yet excitable fan.
Did the book make you consider how fandoms act towards their favourite idols?
Jemima: Totally! You can look at, in particular, some of the One Direction fans, with that fandom it’s quite common to see fans wishing the singers children dead, or their partners get sent death threats, even accounts of stalking the band have been known! And now with some of the band going solo you see that they get assaulted and touched without consent by desperate fans wanting to be as close to their idol as possible. There are fans of One Direction who are not like this but it certainly seems to be a fandom that is more of an extreme one than many others I’ve seen. For instance, the Marvel fandom, in particular fans of the MCU, they seem to be more crazy in terms of the fan art and the fanfiction, but I have yet to see a death threat or hate toward any actor involved in the franchise- perhaps I’m good at avoiding that element of the MCU fandom. Regardless, it has made me look at fandoms in more detail, and myself to make sure I never act like a crazy person because at the end of the day, our idols are just like me and you and they deserve privacy and respect as much as the next person.
Layla: Definitely. I was already aware of how certain fandoms act towards their idols – namely fans of One Direction, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, and many other singers. I know that this doesn’t apply to all fans, but I’ve seen reactions from these fan groups and they are truly disgusting. The amount of abuse thrown at other fans, content creators, even other celebrities in the public eye is truly disgusting and shameful. These groups of fans in these fandoms need to understand that their idol is a person too. Shaming them for dating someone or hurling abuse at a fellow fan isn’t the right way to deal with any situation.
When you are at a concert or convention and surrounded by other fans you can be in the worst and best place on Earth. Do you feel that the book had an accurate portrayal of the feeling of being in that situation?
Jemima: Oh totally! Having been to a few conventions and concerts I know first hand that at the start of the event, regardless of what is about to happen I absolutely hate it. I hate being there, my anxiety is through the roof- even though I am surrounded by wonderful people who are full of smiles and confidence, I always, without fail hate being there. A lot like Jimmy actually, however unlike Jimmy as the event progresses I become more like Angel and my confidence comes back and shines bright, allowing me to do stuff the average person probably only dreams of. This book is perfect at representing how being at a concert or convention is great but also incredibly terrifying. And as I am not an artist looking at the fans I can only assume it is very accurate for those split-second moments before they get up on stage to sing or speak to the audience.
Layla: Yes, and from both sides of the coin too.A fan event is where you might find another fan just like you to befriend, or you may feel pushed to the edge of the group. While Angel has a fair bit of confidence in going to the gig and preparing for the event, Jimmy is truly an anxious wreck. I feel it was important to have these two sides, and to show that some fans may be confident while other fans panic, and performers can be terrified about getting on stage as well as being raring to go.
How do you think the subject of mental health was handled in the book?
Jemima: In the age of mental health being more and more prevalent in the media and in our society, books that tackle mental health can fail at their handling. This book did not fail. I feel that it handled so many mental health issues in a way that was evidently well-researched. Their was also a level of sensitivity that I can only hope we end up calling the norm. For instance, I was always expecting someone to tell Jimmy to Man Up and stop being so anxious. It was an incredible change to see this in a book and I can only hope more books follow suit (or perhaps they already do and I’m just a little bit behind the times?).
Layla: I think it was handled really well and with sensitivity too. Nobody told Jimmy to ‘man up’ or to ‘get a grip’. His mental health was dealt with to show people how to discuss things openly and without fear of stigma. He was allowed somebody to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, but the book also accurately portrayed how sometimes it can get out of hand if you don’t discuss things openly. Jimmy spiralled hard, and it was painful to witness when there were so many people around him he could have opened up to. It shows that even with a great support network, some people are still terrified of opening themselves up.
In the age of technology, social media can find you a friend who is exactly who you need. Do you feel that the portrayal and inclusion of it in IWBFT is accurate and needed in this day and age?
Jemima: 1000% As I said before, I met up with Layla earlier this year and she was an online friend. Social media has helped me connect with and speak to a lot of friends whom I would never have met due to our locations. It also helps to find someone who will have the same interests and same level of interests as you and so will save your poor friends at school and work from having to deal with your obsessive chats about Steve Rogers and whether or not Groot is really being rude to Star Lord in that TV spot.
Layla: I think it was very accurate. I’ve met some awesome people on Twitter, people who show me kindness when I post blog posts and people who make me laugh. It’s so accurate for IWBFT to show internet friendships as something positive, especially when two people are brought together over mutual interests. I think it definitely breaks apart that myth that ‘internet friends aren’t real friends’. I know people who have many internet friendships, some who have known each other for years through the power of Facebook, Twitter, even emails. It’s important to see that friendships nowadays aren’t limited to who you see at school or at work.
Do you think the book was an accurate portrayal of diversity, or did you consider it ‘box ticking’?
Jemima: I definitely wouldn’t consider this book box ticking in any way. It’s a realistic book and it is full of realistic and relatable characters. Angel wasn’t a token Muslim, she was a fan of The Ark meeting up with her friend Juliet. She was a young girl just on the precipice of starting university. It was refreshing. I really enjoyed the fact that each character wasn’t just there to say “ yes hi I am a member of the LGBT+ community and I am here for that reason only”. Each character was there because they were. There was no reason, no box ticking behind it. It was real and it was diverse. Anyone who reads this will surely be seeing their own friends and the diversity of the world inside it. This book is what we need for the future generations, a book that actually represents issues that are relatable.
Layla: This book is one of the most refreshing books with a diverse cast I’ve read in a long time. The friendship group felt so accurate and real, and I felt that many teenagers will read this book and see their own friends in it. There isn’t a character who is tokenistic, and there was no box ticking at all. IWBFT includes characters that you would typically see and meet in London; a diverse, wonderful group of people.
How much would you give for Alice to release a novella about Jimmy, Rowan and Lister?
Jemima: Oh god I’d give everything for one! It doesn’t even have to be anything to do with I Was Born For This, it could be a prequel or like maybe they haven’t even become a band yet they’re just larking about and having fun. Either way I’d like to see more of their dynamic- perhaps even seeing more of life after IWBFT? It would be great to even have a comic series of this as I know Alice has incredible talent in the drawing way and I’m sure many would be interested in seeing perhaps an illustrated version of IWBFT with additions of inner monologues from the boys? I’m going off on a tangent here, point is: Alice, please write more about Jimmy, Rowan and Lister, I need it in my life.
Layla: Quite a lot actually. I would love to see snippets of the boys outside of The Ark tour schedule. What about when they were first getting to grips with their band? What about multiple short stories about each character dealing with the changes in IWBFT? I would truly love to see more from these boys, and I feel their story isn’t over yet. Saying that, I would also be thrilled to read more stuff about Angel and Juliet – how is their friendship after what happened in the book? Is Angel coming to terms more with herself and her own identity? I’d love to see more!
Hope you enjoyed our Q&A sesh, if you feel convinced or in need of buying IWBFT after reading our blog posts here is a few links to go grab a copy!
If you would like to ask Layla and I any more questions on the book feel free to leave them below or at our Twitters our handles are: