The third novel from the phenomenally talented Alice Oseman – one of the most talked about YA writers in recent years.
For Angel Rahimi life is about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything she loves – her friend Juliet, her dreams, her place in the world.
Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band with his mates is all he ever dreamed of doing.
But dreams don’t always turn out the way you think and when Jimmy and Angel are unexpectedly thrust together, they find out how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.
A funny, wise, and heartbreakingly true coming of age novel. I Was Born for This is a stunning reflection of modern teenage life, and the power of believing in something – especially yourself. (Blurb from HarperCollins website//buy it there or at Whitcoulls or Book Depository)
I Was Born For This made me cry (and I was at uni so luckily I didn’t cry very hard). The moment that made me cry was after the drama, when Oseman gives the message that is in all of her books: that life goes on, and on and on. That nothing is as life changing as you think, but many things are more life changing than you’d believe.
That thread of belief was so compelling, and really holds the novel together. Fandom is a form of belief, but it is not the only form of belief and that’s one of the central themes of the story. The worship which The Ark receives contrasts nicely with Angel and Jimmy’s own faith in God. This isn’t very explicit, but poth of them are people who believe in God and that’s a core part of their identity. Angel says her evening prayers and wears a hijab, while Jimmy clutches a cross. Both of them have faith, but it is an inadequate way for them to deal with all their insecurities. Thus, The Ark comes to dominate their lives. Over the course of the week, Angel and Jimmy question why they believe in The Ark and what it’s doing, and I loved how this was the central resolution of the story. That idea of mutual belief and confidence being essential to learning your identity was lovely. (and I loved how it wound up with the idea of Noah and Joan of Arc and their own burdens of belief).
As well the themes, I Was Born For This is definitely an Oseman novel, because the centre is the characters. I especially loved Angel as a character. Like Frances or Tori, Angel is fundamentally confused about who she is and where she wants to be. Over the course of the story, she is challenged over and over, to learn who she is, and what she’s willing to do for her friends. She doesn’t necessarily end with any complete answers, but Oseman’s song is one that reassures Angel (and all readers who have ever felt the same thing) that she will be okay. I loved the character of Angel, and her struggles were relatable, and so was her enthusiasm. I Was Born For This is a tribute to friendship, wherever it begins (in a bathroom or on tumblr), and I liked the character of Juliet and her relationship with Angel a lot.
The dynamic of the band was also well done. As I’m sure lots of other people have mentioned, this story is really diverse and I loved how that was incorporated into the story. It was especially evident within the band. Jimmy actually doesn’t talk that much about being trans, but its just there, so definitely part of who he is, which worked for me. I also though Lister’s alcoholism was handled really well—though again, there was little resolution on that front. The ending—well, I’m not going to spoil you, but I liked it, and I was pleased with how everything worked out.
The climax of this book is utterly dramatic and ridiculous. The set-up is ridiculous—there’s a rainstorm and for some reason everyone is in this tiny place in Kent and tensions riiiiiise. It wasn’t that realistic, but I liked that. When most of the book subjects you to gruesome reality, stripping away the glitz of the music industry and fuzziness of fandom to show the violence and the powerful love and the anxiety attacks and the demanding contracts, that moment of escapism is something I can appreciate, knowing that—thank goodness—it will never happen to me. (I mean, probably. If you ever have to chase me through the woods, get back to me). But like all drama, it ends. And then Angel, Bliss, Juliet, and The Ark have to go back to their ordinaries, and they will be different people.
This is only Alice Oseman’s third novel, and it’s so different to her first two. She’s gotten so much better and I’m sure she’s only going to improve over her career, which is exciting.