Initial reaction: This is one of those books that could go easily either way: love or hate. I thought some moments were pure gold for dark comedy, and I was even laughing while I read this on my commutes. However, it had some issues pulling off the explanations for events. Plus, some moments in humored context didn’t always work for me.
“Kill the Boy Band” is a very interesting book I bought on a whim when I saw it in the book store. For one, the title screams “BUY ME!” The book jacket has the black background with pink lettering, while if you take the jacket off, it’s a pink cover with black lettering that could pass for a fangirl’s notebook. I was totally stoked about this being a dark humored parody of fandom culture. Even the blurb suggests that a group of girls encountering the least popular member of a popular boyband (The Ruperts, who you might as well say are a parody band of One Direction) goes in an absolutely horrible – and unintended- direction.
I would say after the entire reading experience that the execution of this is made of both great things…and not so great things. Dark humor can be difficult to execute well, because on one hand it has the potential to point out contradictions and ironies (which yes, this book did in several notations), but at the same time it may unintentionally be offensive depending on how it’s expanded upon. The closest I can say this book comes with respect to its brand of humor is the Fox TV series “Scream Queens.” If you’ve ever seen that series with its brand of horror comedy, that’s exactly what you’ll get in “Kill the Boy Band”. Some iconic one-liners with some self-aware critiques and examinations included. Libba Bray’s “Beauty Queens” did this as well, but I think “Beauty Queens” went over better for me as a whole because it covered a lot of ground and I clicked with it a little more (especially in Bray’s own narration; that remains one of my favorite YA audio experiences.)
That’s not to say that I didn’t identify in spaces with “Kill the Boy Band.” I’ve been a part of various fandom cultures for many years (yes, I’ve had the interesting experience of reading several RPFs.) Musical group fan culture isn’t new to me, what with my love for certain J-pop/J-rock/K-pop groups. Ye Gods, I’ve been a part of that culture for a long time, it’s kind of fascinating being able to reminisce about it. My experiences with Laruku included (I still faintly think HYDE could be the embodiment of a living vampire. His role in Moonchild with Gackt did not help dispel this theory back when I first watched the film in all its fandubbed glory. But I digress.)
So, the protagonist of this book – who often takes on the moniker of several 80s referenced heroines – is a part of a group of girls who are obssessed with the Brit boy band “The Ruperts”. “The Ruperts” are all named that way because their first names are “Rupert” (designated from each other only by the first letter of their last name and their odd quirks. One of them doesn’t even really sing, he just juggles during their live performances). They met on a reality show, a.k.a parody of One Direction. I’ll admit that made me laugh with some of the details given for the band and how the protagonist profiled each of her friends and their various stats within partaking with the fandom.
Among the protagonist’s friends are the curvy Chinese girl Apple (Oh bless Apple’s fangirl heart that she frequently wanted to jump the bones of the Rupert she liked the most during a good part of this book – though the overt sexual humor really surprised me in places), Isabel (frequently curses in Spanish, she’s Dominican), and Erin, the MC’s best friend who has a really, really dark streak.
The four of them end up going to an exclusive event at the hotel which is rumored to be where the Ruperts are staying. Things go terribly wrong when Apple bumrushes one of the members of the band as he’s at a vending machine, knocking him out. (My reaction: OMG!) Then she proceeds to drag him back to the girls’ hotel room, where things quickly get complicated, including tying up the Rupert so that he won’t “panic” when he wakes up (but of course he does), and things go downhill from there.
I could totally see this scenario happening in an anime series (*fangirl runs up to favorite boybander* “I LOOOOOOVE YOU” *smack* “CRAAAAAAP!”). And that’s exactly how it plays out, in an over the top manner, but while the narrative has some decidedly lighthearted moments and snappy one-liners, it gets dark very quickly. Very, very dark. There were times I was laughing at the interactions, while others I was like “GIRL/DUDE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
The characters are quite stereotypical, sometimes in ways that I think both work with and undermine some of the self-aware and pondering humor that could be taken for plays on morality and spot commentary in awareness of fandom culture. Some of the humor is offensive, including notations on race, sexuality, body type, and disability – which is why I had mixed feelings on the novel because some of it I could feel/see the intention, but others I was like “Nah…that’s really not cool in the way that it was shown.” It’s one of those novels that I could definitely see people either loving or hating it for the mere execution of it. I still think (and am a little sad that) this book didn’t quite go in more fun and open directions given its awesome premise, but it has moments where it shines. I appreciated the bit references I could pull from, plus some of the banter between the girls and boys. I don’t think there’s really a single character that comes out of this scenario as likable because they’re all inherently flawed and OTT. The way the book goes in terms of the plot (including how one of the Ruperts ends up dead, but who didn’t see that coming?) has some interesting points, but I think it struggled to get to answering those questions in places. I actually kind of appreciated the ending, because it’s an interesting punctuation and notation to fandom writing culture. I don’t know if it really goes as far as it could have or is as keen as it put itself off to be, but I took it for what it was.
Still, this left me on the fence for the experience. I definitely liked parts of it, but others I really wish I had more takeaway. It wasn’t the *hold my sides, laughing until I had tears in my eyes* experience that I was hoping for.
Overall score: 3/5 stars.
End Note: Laruku is the fan name for the Japanese band L’arc~en~Ciel, in case anyone doesn’t get that reference. 🙂