Hello everyone, and welcome back!
I’ve been on a streak of ordering and reading fandom contemporary romances, because…yeah, I’m a fandom kind of human. (Also I kind of want to find The Very Best, Like No Book Ever Was in this fun new subgenre.) Spoiler alert: so far, none of them have stacked up to Geekerella, but I am working on it!
But that said, why don’t we get right to it?
Grace and the Fever by zAN ROMANOFF
Grace and the Fever is about a fangirl, Grace, and a band, The Fever Dream, and how the two implausibly meet. It’s also a coming of age about a girl who doesn’t quite fit in finding her place.
So…this book wasn’t a bad book, but I feel like it tried to do too much. Am I a broken record about books doing that lately? Maybe.
To be fair to the book, I feel like Grace’s many concerns before college were true to life, and I liked how this book wrapped up and its discussion of the sometimes toxic aspects of the relationship between fans and creators.
But also: Grace has many layers of drama. There’s her strained relationship with her mother (and absent father), issues growing apart with her childhood friends, drama with her online BFF, the fandom getting up in arms about her, the drama of getting involved with the band (who have many of their own issues), her romantic drama, apparently a job with a pseudo-creepy boss (which flits in and out of the narrative without consequence?), etc.
That all makes sense for a teen’s actual life in this scenario, so I’m not knocking that! But the book tries to give some kind of resolution to all of these things, and as a result, readers get to know very little about a lot of characters, and there’s not a lot to emotionally invest in those resolutions. (At least the pseudo-instalove in this book isn’t totally unexplainable?)
Maybe this is a bold statement, but: all of the concerns a teen has to juggle while embarking on the next chapter of their lives can be hard to fit in one novel, especially if you plan on throwing a life-changing plot hook in there. I think a writer either needs to narrow scope or let it be more than a standalone. Reality can contain a lot more than fiction; in real life, barely named characters or dangling plot threads or weird things that just come up once just happen. Fiction needs to make everything matter in the story. (I mean, unless the book is something more experimental, but this is a contemporary romance we’re talking.)
Grace and the Fever seemed to convey a real understanding of how fandom (at least Tumblr fandom) works, so I appreciated that a lot. Grace was the last person I’d expect to be a fan, though, because…I felt like this book was lacking in most places in the excitement and passion and happiness about fandom that I anticipated and was looking forward to. Grace feels giddy a couple of times with the band, but she reads as annoyed by her closest friend Katy, a passionate Big Name Fan, and I’m never sure why. Grace also reads as ashamed of being a fan, which is something I can understand but not entirely relate to—but your mileage may vary on that one.
In any case, because of that lack of passion in much of the book, the general feel of the book was kind of flat, to the extent that I considered putting it down? I’m glad I didn’t, because I like how it ended, but I’m also…not 100% sold on the journey. I still have no idea what Grace did with her friends growing up and how that connection is important, I don’t know that I really care about the band other than as an analog for One Direction (and in a fandom book, I want to have a reason to care about the fan’s object of affection!), and why was Grace’s job so inconsequential? Why all the references to her passionate dad who left, leading to nothing? I don’t even know.
Anyway, in the end, the aspects of this book that were all about faking things for PR made me go and reread some fanfic where one character is an actor and the other is fake dating them to clean up their image, so I guess I can thank this book for that? But I also feel like the fanfic had more at stake emotionally so eh.
To be fair: maybe if I read this as an AU fanfic re: a band I was in the fandom for, I’d be more emotionally invested and this would be awesome? It’d certainly qualify as a very carefully written version of a common premise: ordinary self-insert girl meets famous band, dates member she finds most attractive. The issue, though, is that I’m honestly not sure many fanfic readers would really like Grace very much, because we don’t really get to know much about her. I’m okay with that along with her lack of self-knowledge because this is also clearly a YA coming-of-age situation, but in a fanfic, her mistakes and her emotional flatness might make her a very unlikeable original character. So I’m not exactly sure this works on that level, either.
tl;dr: I’m not sure who to recommend this for? It was okay; the ending was many times better than the rest of the book for me, but that didn’t entirely rescue it. I wouldn’t read a sequel.
Are you part of a bandom and planning to read this book? I would love to hear what you think of it. And hey: what’s your fandom? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!