When Claire decides to ask a question at a panel featuring the actors and showrunner from her favorite cult television show, Demon Heart – a question that the entire fandom is dying to know – she doesn’t expect to be called a “crazy” fan and to leave the panel room in tears. She really doesn’t expect to then win a contest putting her on planes and tour buses with the cast of Demon Heart for the next several days. Despite her recent humiliation, it’s too good of an opportunity for any mega-fan to pass up, and Claire decides to use her time with the Demon Heart cast and crew to try to convince them that shipping the two male leads of the show is far from crazy – it might even be the show’s best chance for renewal.
YA novels about fans and fandom have been growing more popular in recent years – including Rainbow Rowell’s 2013 Fangirl (a favorite of the MuggleNet staff, for obvious reasons!), Goldy Moldavsky’s Kill the Boy Band, Cecil Castellucci’s Don’t Cosplay with My Heart and several others. YA and fandom have always been closely linked – a certain boy wizard probably has a lot to do with that – so it’s unsurprising that more and more authors would use the worlds of conventions, fanfiction, cosplay, and other fannish activities as springboards for their stories. But even in a field that is becoming ever more crowded with novels about fans, Ship It stands out as a true must-read for, well… fans.
Author Britta Lundin sets her story apart from many of those already on the market in a couple of key ways. First, Lundin is a television writer for Riverdale (in fact, Ship It was originally pitched as a screenplay!), and her experience in the industry allows her to address not just the fan experience of a convention but also those of celebrity talent and staff. Second, Lundin’s story follows not only Claire but also Forest, Demon Heart star and shipping skeptic.
As fans, we know what it’s like to be excited to meet an actor or author whom we admire. We know what it’s like to “fan out” over them. We’ve all seen other fans go what we might consider “a little too far” in their quest for an autograph. We’ve heard talent say over and over again that they “love the fans”… but if you’re like me, you can’t help wondering – is it really true?
Lundin’s novel embraces that very question. While Forest is more than a bit wary of fangirls and convention show floors, his costar Rico feels differently – he emphasizes that he can’t be “on” for fans all of the time but loves the energy and passion of fans when he’s around them. Their interactions give Ship It a narrative dynamism that doubles as an exploration of the exchanges of power that go on in fan–talent encounters. If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite actors are thinking, Lundin’s novel is a version of what could be going on behind their flashing smiles. Most importantly, though – it makes for a great story.
I’m nearing the end of this review, and I haven’t gotten to write about even half of what makes Ship It such a great book. Claire is a fanfiction writer and avid Tumblr user – social media dynamics and influence play a role in this novel that feels authentic to the fan experience, which takes place at least as much online as in panel rooms. She’s also exploring her sexuality, standing up to industry insiders and the practice of queerbaiting, and trying to be better about recognizing her white privilege. Shippers, fans – do yourself a favor and get a copy of this book ASAP.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.