Running Press Kids
(ARC received at ALA12)
I have to say this at the outset because I have so many great and wonderful things to say about this book that I just feel like you need to know that I do, in fact, realize it's not perfect. I know that plausibility is stretched in some cases, that Josie's dad's story felt too convenient and mostly unconnected from everything else. I know that. But here's the thing: while it may not be perfect, Fangirl comes kinda close, at least for me it does. The story of Peter Maxx, a teen superstar (think Justin Bieber) and Josie Brant, the music-loving, song-writing high school girl who falls in love with him falls squarely under that term I loathe: fluff. The book is cute, entertaining, light... all those things that are sort of backhanded compliments in the world of books. But it is so much better than that.
Fangirl stands out from many other celebrity-focused novels by its complete commitment to the characters at the center of the story. Despite being steeped in the lives of the rich and famous, it never reads in the glitzy, distanced, tabloid-esque way that it very easily could. Ken Baker is the head news correspondent for E! News, and his knowledge of the subject (fame! celebrities!) gives the story a realism it might not have otherwise. He pushes past the trappings of a celeb-inspired novel to get to the characters, emotions, and relatability underneath.
Peter has the sort of backstory that on a reality show would be milked for all it's worth: his dad's own musical career burnt out years ago and his mom died, so he's famous and beloved, but also imperfect. While Peter loves making music (and would love it even more if he had a little more creative control...), he hates having to be "on" all the time and this, mixed with grief over his mother, makes him a bit of an anxious mess. And this is played out so well without being overlooked and without taking over the book. Meanwhile high school Josie has her own personal problems, most of them stemming from her parent's divorce. Both of these characters (Peter and Josie) have anxiety problems and though it's nothing incapacitating, they're handled in a way that adds dimension to their characters.
Mostly though, what this is is an adorable love story between a teen popstar and a (as the title says) fangirl. Their romance plays out in the typical 21st century ways -- through Twitter, IMs, and text messages, which makes me love the book so much more. Because while the story is told in third person, the conversations between Peter and Josie add a first-person connection and make it impossible not to root for them. This book completely captures crushes and all the angst, worry, and borderline-obsession that comes with them. It's a book I really couldn't put down; a huggable, obsession-worthy YA novel that you should probably definitely read.