In Review: The Fandom

This is the perfect book for teens who would love to live the life of a fictional character.

The Fandom by Anna Day

Published by Scholastic and Chicken House, April 24, 2018. Jacketed hardcover of 416 pages at $17.99. Intended for ages 14-18, grades 9-12. 

Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.

The cover: Four thorn covered stems weave in and out of the title and the author’s name. The stems are cool blue and the thorns a tan. A black background makes these visuals and the text stand out well. Between the title and the author’s name is the phrase “No story is worth dying for.” This effective cover illustration is by Tim O’Brien, with the cover design by Elizabeth B. Parisi. A very cool frontpiece. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the back cover, “‘Exactly one week from today, I will hang. I will hang for my friends, my family, and, above else, love.’ Violet is in her element. Cosplay ready, she can’t wait to feel part of her favorite fandom: The Gallows Dance, a mega book and movie franchise that she and her friends know every word of. But at Comic-Con, a freak accident transports Violet and her friends into the story for real. And in just the first five minutes, they cause the death of the heroine and get taken prisoner by the rebel group she was supposed to lead to victory. Fueled by love, guilt, and fear, it’s up to Violet to take her place and play out the plot the way it was written. But stories have a life of their own, and when you change the script in one place, the rest gets revised too…” Having characters transported into their favorite fiction is a fun idea and having it be a group of friends is slick way to get several characters’ points of view. This sounds enjoyable. Overall grade: A-

The characters: Violet is the protagonist who knows the book The Gallows Dance by heart. She feels like an outcast in the real world and longs to live in her favorite novel. When she’s transported into the book with her friends she’s the one that tries to get the book back on its expected path. Unfortunately, events occur that are different from the book and it seems the novel has whitewashed some aspects of the world. I enjoyed Violet’s determination to make things right, her strength when she learned something horrible about the evil upper class Gems, and how she felt she was pulled to love someone unexpected. She’s a strong protagonist. Her twelve-year-old brother Nate is a continual pain in the butt, though once in the world of the book he takes things more seriously, especially when he’s threatened with some severe punishment. Vi’s friend Katie is the perfect best friend, always bucking up Vi when she’s feeling low. Of all the friends, she’s the least familiar with the novel. She wants to make choices that will further ruin the canon of the novel they’re living in. Alice is the knockout blonde of the group and she writes popular fan fiction online. She’s the one that panics the most once they’re living in the book, though her looks have her more closely resemble a Gem than one of the Imps. Alice does some questionable things that seem to protect her more so than the group. The villains of the piece are the Gems, the beautiful authoritarian rulers. The Imps, those in poverty that slave away for the Gems are more intense than the friends realized, with several of the Imps creating tension, including threatening to kill the heroes often. The characters are never one dimensional, adapting quickly to their situations, changing the course of the story they are trapped in. Overall grade: A

The settings: The real world is set in present day England, but it contains elements that can be found anywhere: secondary school and a convention full of eager fans. The opening chapter set in school during a presentation rang true to me, who’s had students make presentations similar to Vi’s with the same dolts interrupting. The convention the friends attend is similar to any convention where fans gather. The fantasy/dystopian world of The Gallows Dance is set in the future where the Genetically enhanced, the Gems, have taken over the Imperfects — the unenhanced normals — the Imps. The Gems have technology and projectile weapons, while the Imps live in slums rife with disease and crime. There are no lazers or robots or flying ships, so it’s an easy to picture environment with author Day moving in out of locations well and describing expertly. One setting was a terrific surprise, as it features objects related to science used for nefarious reasons, while the rest of the book was what one would expect. Overall grade: B

The action: Once the characters get into the book, the action is almost unrelenting. Identified as Imps, they’re constantly pursued or under pressure from the Gems. They heroes are also under pressure from their supposed allies the Imps, who don’t trust the teens. Vi’s frustration and helplessness at trying to get the book back on track comes through constantly to the reader. One thing is for sure, no one will be bored by a lack of action in this tale. Overall grade: A

The conclusion: This book does have a nail biter of a conclusion with Vi believing that she’ll have to sacrifice herself to save her friends. The entire book is headed toward this conclusion and author Day puts an outstanding wrinkle into this ending. I was very pleased with it and it was a terrific payoff to the book. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is the perfect book for teens who would love to live the life of a fictional character. Day is extremely smart with what her cast does, always trying to get the book back on track, but something always destroys the canon. Vi is a smart, fun character. The tension is good, the stakes heavy, and the read highly enjoyable. This is an excellent novel. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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