Spoiler alert! This review reveals significant plot details.
I put this book down at the start of Chapter 6, where one of the supposed protagonists (a 15-year-old girl) is sexually assaulting a kidnapped 15-year-old boy she idolizes. I don’t care why it’s happening or what justification there is—Kill the Boy Band had already tried my patience with some other red flags as well as Goldy Moldavsky’s style; I was already mulling over DNFing it despite being less than 50 pages in. As usual, Kara needs to learn to trust her gut.
This is supposedly a dark comedy about four 15-year-old American girls who are diehard fans of British boy band The Ruperts (because they are all named Rupert, get it?). These girls are so hardcore that they get a room at the same hotel where the Ruperts will be staying during their appearance in New York City. They end up inadvertently kidnapping one of the Ruperts, though, and holding him in their room, bound and gagged with tights. And that is all I know, because I didn’t even bother to look up how the book ends. I don’t care.
From the beginning of the book, I wasn’t happy with how Moldavsky was characterizing these girls. It felt like she was satirizing the idea of a boy band fangirl. I didn’t want to bring this up initially, because I wasn’t too sure where Moldavsky is coming from—but then I saw this answer from her on Goodreads where she basically admits that she herself hasn’t been a boy band fan girl, and this is all based on watching a documentary about boy bands.
So … yeah. So much of the humour in this book, at least the chapters I managed to read, feels like it is punching down, like Moldavsky is making fun of our protagonists. That’s a weird tone to take for a young adult novel. There’s also some fatphobia with Apple, one of the girls, who was adopted from an orphanage in Beijing (and therefore, presumably, Chinese). Similarly, Isabel is of Dominican descent, but she has patchier Spanish than our narrator and also apparently knows stuff about crime?? This exemplifies the poor attempts at diversity among our main characters. It’s not enough to just toss in a couple of different races if you aren’t thinking carefully about the stereotypes involved. Also, the character development itself is clunky—our narrator (who apparently, according to other reviews, just goes unnamed for the whole book??) just straight-up tells us Apple is an adopted Chinese orphan. Like, maybe save that for a moment where it’s relevant instead of giving us a “crit stats” rundown on each of your friends?
For all these reasons and more, I wasn’t too happy with Kill the Boy Band before we got to Chapter 6. And then, within the first paragraph, there’s the sexual assault. Yeah, it’s just straddling and licking his face—but that is happening while he’s bound and gagged and unable to consent. That makes it assault. And like so much already seen in this book, it isn’t treated with the severity that such an action deserves.
This is an unfortunate trend I see in books, both YA and adult, that try to blend comedy with darkness without verging full-on into horror. Yeah, the premise that a bunch of 15-year-old girls accidentally kidnap a member of their favourite band and maybe (?) end up accidentally killing him is dark. You can also make it funny. But making it sympathetic? So much more difficult. If you want an example of a YA novel that embraces the darkness and doesn’t look away, go read Hannah Capin’s Foul is Fair instead.
I just restocked on library books and owned books. Let’s move on.