iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman
Harper Collins, May 2018
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
‘but to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief;
that is a fate more terrible than dying.’
-Joan of Arc
Angel Rahimi lives, breathes and dies for The Ark, a pop-rock band made up of three teenage boys currently breaking through in America. So what if she’s argued with her parents and doesn’t have the future prospects the world expects a girl her age to have? She has The Ark, her best friend Juliet, and the chance to meet the boys who have given her a life.
Jimmy Kaga-Ricci is the frontman for The Ark. He feels like he owes his fans everything: his energy and time, his love, his entire life. Being in a band is all he’s ever wanted, and now he’s finally got the fame to go with it. He’ll ignore the changing contracts, the panic attacks, the fact that he can’t even leave his home without a bodyguard, if it means making them happy.
Until everything goes wrong. And it’s finally time for these two to face the reality of it all, together.
Alice Oseman has been my favourite author ever since 2015, when I was 15 and first read Solitaire and I looked at Tori Spring and went, ‘oh god, this is me’. A year later, I read Radio Silence, read as Frances Janvier forced herself into caring about university, and thought, ‘oh, wait, this is what I’ve been doing’. In 2018, I read as Angel Rahimi panicked that she didn’t really matter to her friends, gave her entire life to fandom, and Jimmy Kaga-Ricci spiralled in his anxiety, and I saw myself.
Anxiety is prevalent in the lives of our two main characters. Jimmy panics about his safety, his fans, his identity, not seeing his granddad- so he throws himself into music. Angel has friendship anxieties, feels inadequate in a successful family, and ends up throwing herself into the fandom that has made her feel like she finally belongs. Everything is grounded in reality with these two characters, despite how impossible and unreachable Jimmy seems to Angel, and I could find myself relating to these two because everything about them felt like the truth.
I shrug. ‘Must be nice to just … be a person.’
Rowan stares at me. The flashing lights reflect in his glasses. ‘But we’re gods, Jimmy. What’s better than that?’
In I Was Born For This, Alice Oseman tears down the boundaries between fans and their idols, and gives you a look into the repercussions of fame. There were moments where I looked at Angel, and other fans, and saw myself. While I wasn’t ashamed, per se, I definitely felt something like it. Fans invest themselves into the lives of the people they see on screens or on the page, to the point where they- we- feel like we are in a position to speculate about their sexuality and relationships, talk about things that can destroy these people, and it made me confront my own attitude.
At the same time, the band is reeling. Jimmy feels obligated to love people he’s never even met. Rowan hates the fans for stopping him from being able to be happy in his private life. Lister appears fine with it all, only for you to realise- like a lot of celebrities- he has his vices to cope with the fact that he’s struggling, so, so much, and it broke my heart. Alice makes you aware of the negative sides of both being an idol, and being the one doing the idolising, and I think it’s incredible that she captured both sides so well.
And it’s not just me that’s left reeling: Jimmy and Angel are both forced to confront reality, and what they really want from their life. Rowan and Lister do the same, as do Bliss and Juliet. Alice created a cast of characters you can’t help but love, even when they are breaking down and screaming at each other. She creates situations where you think one thing, only for the opposite to be true; every character is flawed, and by the end, they’ve had to face those flaws and learn from them. And at the centre of it all is a very strange old woman who keeps appearing and giving them advice, however small it seems [to break the serious chain, she’s lowkey my favourite character, and she should be the one we all idolise from now on].
Alice Oseman is only getting better at this point. There’s a relevancy to all of her novels that makes them feel timeless, like you could apply the situations to people 50 years ago or 50 years from now, and it would still feel current and understandable. She’s written contemporary fiction that will last because it’s so real.
I highly recommend this novel for a hard hitting look at fame and friendship, losing yourself, and trying to reconcile with change when all you want to do is stay the same. There are moments you’ll crack up laughing and others where your heart will hurt and all you’ll want to do is cry.