When I was in university, I had a professor who dedicated her research to researching fandom. At the time, I thought it was a weird topic to focus on. Now I realize that she was ahead of the curve.
Kill the Boy Band follows four characters as they try to fulfill their dream of meeting with their favourite band The Ruperts. The Ruperts are in NYC for a show and even though our characters didn’t get tickets they manage to snag a room in the same hotel as the band. When one of the girls has a chance meeting with one of the band members and in her excitement accidentally knocks him out… things go from normal to out of control really quickly.
What follows is a hostage situation, jokes about 80s movies and a no holds bared analysis of fandom.
Kill the Boy Band made me feel old. It dragged me kicking and screaming back to the 90s and a time when boy bands really did kind of matter. Understand I wasn’t part of the crazy and this wasn’t by my own choice. I didn’t start listening to popular music until I was in high school. My musical taste was directly influenced by my parents. I grew up on a steady diet of oldies. But the great boy band battle of the 90s was always on my radar. I had female cousins who were knee deep in the battlefield, on opposing sides.
The boy band in it’s structure is absolutely fascinating. They offer someone for everyone to lust after. The bad boy? Check. The talented one. Check. The one who can dance. Got that too. It’s the perfect marketing package. They can capture the attention of an entire generation easily. Kill the Boy Band takes its time analyzing this. Our main character muses what each of her friend’s favourite member of the band says about them.
“I have this theory that choosing which boy to love in a boy band says a lot about a person. I think Erin loved Rupert X. because she believed she was hot enough to love such an attractive person. I think Isabel loved Rupert L. because she felt she was tough enough to love someone with muscles so big. I think I loved Rupert K., deep down, because he was the most approachable one in the bunch. And I think Apple loved Rupert P. because she couldn’t even envision herself being loved by one of the cute boys. She loved him because he was the only one who she thought could possibly love her back.”
Each of the girls in Kill the Boy Band is drastically different from one another. They represent the different facets of fandom and how despite all of their differences they’re united in their love of the boys. Our nameless Main Character lost her father, and has used The Ruperts as a crutch to get her through her pain. Isabel loved The Ruperts so much that she created a fan blog dedicated to them, as time passed the blog became more important to her than The Ruperts themselves. Apple’s love of The Ruperts (specifically Rupert P.) is tied to her body image and self worth. Finally there is Erin who’s love of the band lead to the band betraying her in an awful way. When faced with holding Rupert P. hostage they each have their own ideas how it will further their own goals. Not all of them are honourable.
As the novel progresses you watch the character’s morals and their relationships unravel. Kill the Boyband has a strong coming of age, loss of innocence narrative that serves as the back bone of the book.
Overall I enjoyed Boyband. I liked that Moldavsky presented both the light and dark side of fandom. For every negative point she raised she pointed out something positive. Yes to the outside world these girls are wasting their time, the shelf life for a boy band is statistically short. Yet when you think about it? Loving a boy band or participating in a fandom is normally harmless. it can bring people together, you can experiment and create in a safe environment, but at the end of the day you’re hurting no one.
Yes, the book isn’t perfect. Much of the novel’s humor derives from the character Apple. The other girls mistreat her and tease her about her weight and low self esteem. Apple’s love for Rupert P. wanders into sexual abuse territory a few times (she licks his face, if the genders were reversed would it be funny?). By the end of the novel I felt more sorry for Apple than anything. Unlike the other girls she doesn’t have a conclusive plot. She’s just there until she isn’t.
The more I think about this novel, the more I find myself liking it. Whether you’re a member of a fandom or have friends deep in fandom culture, this book offers an interesting analysis. You might love it or you might hate it but I can promise it will be memorable.
Alright, Spoilers After the Image
At the halfway point Rupert P. dies and this serves as the catalyst for the insanity in the second half of the novel. The novel switches gears. Who killed Rupert P. and what are our characters going to do with the body?
It’s during this second half of the novel that the story and the characters really shine. The critique and analysis is still there, but it takes a back seat to the absurdity of the black comedy. My favourite scene sees the girls trapped in an elevator with other fans trying to not draw attention to Apple’s suitcase which is stuffed with Rupert P.’s body.