I’m pretty sure I can count the amount of YA black comedies I’ve read on one hand. And this one, my God is it relevant to the entire internet. All of it. And the culture in general.
Kill the Boy Band follows our Main Character (who remains nameless) and her friends Erin, Isabelle and Apple as they fangirl over the international sensations The Ruperts. ie. 1 Direction or any of other of the myriads of boybands out there.
The girls spend their lives obsessing over these boys. They each have their favorite, own all sorts of memorabilia, will buy anything with The Ruperts’ face on it, go to as many concerts of as they can, and talk about The Ruperts online. In short, they live and breathe The Ruperts.
An opportunity comes up to stay in the same hotel as the Ruperts and the girls take it. They hope to catch at least a glimpse of one of the boys, but fate smiles on them. When Apple catches sight of her favorite Rupert, Rupert P., she charges him and knocks him out cold. In a moment of panic and mind-blowing excitement, she drags him back to their room like a caveman drags his kill back to his layer, and the girls tie him up.
From that point on the girls are officially cross the line into crazy fangirl territory and decide to not to let Rupert P. go.
Our Main Character is all for setting him free, but she is out-voted by Isabelle, Apple and her best friend Erin, and each of the girls have their own reasons for wanting to keep him.
- Rupert P. is Apple’s favourite and she wants to take advantage of him being unable to run away to try and win his heart/seduce him.
- Isabelle runs a highly trafficked fan site and having him here means that she has an insider scoop on what’s going on with the Ruperts. Even better for her, by controlling Rupert P. she can now influence the band and get more hits.
- Erin has her own dark motivation for wanting to keep him, one that Main Character is only starting to understand
Everything goes downhill from there for the girls, because
Minor SPOILER Warning. Don’t Look.
Rupert P. ends up dead. Yeah, bet you were not expecting that.
The girls were all supposedly “out of the room” and when they get back they find that he was been strangled, and they quickly rule out the possibility that it was accidental. That means that one of them must have killed him.
So, yeah. This is definitely a black comedy, because now not only do you have crazy fan culture, but humour is also derived from disposing of the body
But the main thing to know about Kill the Boy Band is that it is polarizing. It tells a good story but you are either going to love it or hate it.
Why You Might Either Love or Hate Kill the Boy Band
- Fan culture is portrayed here. A modern look at something that most of us who like things on the internet in some way participate in.
- There is a diverse cast of characters from different racial backgrounds.
- It progressively acknowledges slut-shaming.
- It has genuinely funny moments ex. The moment when the girls leave Apple alone with Rupert she ends up licking his face.
- You could argue that all the book shows is the extreme end of crazy fangirls and doesn’t exactly portray them in a good light.
- The book fat-shames Apple for laughs.
- The one gay character is complete dick and then he gets murdered.
- It has some genuinely disturbing moments aka the moment when you realize how much less funny Apple licking Rupert’s face would be if the genders were reversed.
I could go on.
But what really makes this book interesting, whether you believe its portrayed positively or not, is the fan culture. Times have changed since the last time I had anything I hardcore fangirl about. (I guess kids no longer trade photographs of the Spice Girls at recess anymore). It has become so easy to surround yourself with your obsession 24-7. You can spend hours reading articles, making fanart, reading tweets until you eat, sleep and breathe your favourite fandom. Internet is the fuel and the flame.
Moldavsky takes all this and tries to look at the how of it: How being obsessed with something like a boy band can affect our lives and why we glom onto certain things. Her characters are all at different ends of the spectrum. Main Character ends up obsessed with the Ruperts because her father died and she needed something to focus on. Isabel was a fan, but now her fan blog is more important to her than the actual fandom itself. Erin was a fan but then the band did something to betray her trust in a big way. Apple’s love of the Ruperts is tied in with her body image and sense of self-worth.
Then Moldavsky talks about the question of what all the love that gets thrown at these entities amounts to. For a lot of people it’s going to be a distant memory, maybe a little bit of embarrassment at your former interest. Definitely not a productive use of your time. But then again, some good things do come out of the girls’ love of the Ruperts. Sloane gets to flex her writing wings and Isabel learns how to run a successful gossip site, so maybe Moldavsky’s does see something positive in fan culture after all.
Just, you know, ignore the whole murder thing.
One thing that brings the book out of mediocrity is the fact that none of the characters are exactly good. They all have something to them which makes them unlikeable. Main Character can’t stand up for herself. Erin is manipulative. Apple is somewhat dumb. Isabel is violent and ruthless. Even Rupert P., who gets kidnapped and tied to a chair, is not a nice person. You don’t feel too sorry when someone strangles him.
The portrayal of the other Ruperts fits right into that complex characterization. Rupert L. is as dumb as a box of rocks. Rupert X. is a gaybashing asshole. And Rupert K. is at least earnest, but he’s not a demi-god of perfection either.
While the situation may be a little exaggerated Moldavsky is taking a good honest look at facets of fan culture. So if you’re looking for a book that makes you think about what you just read, are in need of some black humour, or are just really annoyed by all the 1D fans out there. I would say pick this book up.
It’s not what I expected going in, though I don’t think I could tell you what I expected now that I’ve read it. It definitely has rereadability value too, just to really see all sides of the argument Moldavsky is making, since there is no clear cut answer thesis she is trying to get across. If you have chance, give Kill the Boy Band a read.
I think this book made me feel old. Old and sane. It’s not a bad feeling.