Review: The Fandom by Anna Day
“It’s one of the unwritten rules of all dystopian novels – love interests must have stupid names.”
Katie laughs. “And everything starts with a capital letter, even if it’s a normal word, just to make it sound scary.”
I’ve had my copy of The Fandom since signing up to Chicken House’s mailing list at YALC back in July. The hype started building in March, when Anna Day’s debut novel became Chicken House’s fastest selling international rights title ever. As soon as I saw copies were being given out, I stood there making grabby hands until someone gave me one.
The Fandom follows four teenagers who are sucked into the world of the latest dystopian craze, The Gallows Dance, after a freak accident at Comic Con. When they accidentally cause the death of the female lead, Violet must step up and fill her shoes, trying to make hunky male Willow fall in love with her so that the plot of the story can play out and they can go home. But when Alice, Violet’s best friend, gets close to Willow, things start vastly deviating from the canon, and it looks as though the gang might be stuck in futuristic London forever…
Sadly, now I’ve read The Fandom I’m conflicted. I was already wary due to how the story came about (Chicken House paired Day up with Angela McCann, who was runner-up in The Big Idea Competition back in 2014, making The Fandom a hybrid of their ideas), but the uncertainty doesn’t stop there.
For one thing, despite Day proclaiming that she’s a big fan of dystopians, she shits on them more than celebrates them. This might be my natural pessimism shining through, but I’m basing it off of the quote above (as well as gems like “I could have ended up with a really stupid name, like Four or something” and “Katniss and Tris – they’re just a couple of Girl Guides”). If you’re going to write a dystopian and play into the traits of the genre, it’s out of order to openly mock those aspects throughout. It was refreshing to find nods to other novels, as most YA books are devoid of pop culture references and that always feels unnatural, but there were better ways to go about it.
However, the twisty-turny plot is gripping. I saw some of the twists coming from a mile away, but others left me sitting here with my mouth hanging open, brain struggling to catch up. It’s been a long time since any book has made me do that, and I can’t remember ever having that reaction to a dystopian. I do wonder whether it’ll make it impossible to reread – once you know a shock like that is coming, it’s hard to forget about it – but I don’t have time to find that out just yet.
There’s a good chance that there’s going to be a sequel, but if there is it hasn’t been announced yet. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a second novel, because the ending is left wide open. In fact, it’s so far from a conclusion that it left me feeling flat. The rest of the novel is tightly written and obviously planned out, but the last few chapters seem rushed. Combine that with the fact that the plot is exposed in the first chapter and there’s lots of repetition throughout, and you can see that The Fandom is awkwardly paced, but the rises and falls come at such unexpected times that they manage to hold your interest anyway.
I can see why there’s so much buzz around this novel. It’s nostalgic. If you were addicted to dystopians during the craze back in 2012, you’re going to enjoy this book (whether you want to or not!). It’s certainly not perfect, but I still recommend giving it a go, because a lot of people have fallen head over heels into The Fandom already. Plus, I got my copy back in July – who knows how much could have changed in the six months between then and publication?!
If you’re interested in learning more about The Fandom, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!