Before blossoming into the Smiths-quoting, Courtney Love-worshipping paragon of cool whose words you see before you, I was a boy band fan. Yes, it’s true. My excuse is that, for the most part, I was about 10 and couldn’t have been expected to know any better. The inspiration for this teeny-bopping phase? Take That (the first time round, not the bearded, grown-up version of the 2000s). I wanted to marry Robbie Williams; I sang every word at a concert in 1993; I felt personally betrayed when they went all raunchy and, for some reason, decided to write an angry letter to my local newspaper about it. I was a pretty weird kid. I came out of my Take That stage to graduate to “proper” music, with a slight regression at the age of 14 when my love of Hanson took over my life. I am still mocked for this now but I stand by the fact that Middle of Nowhere is a brilliant pop album.
What all this means is that I found a great deal to enjoy in Kill the Boy Band, a delightfully silly book which focuses on 4 obsessed fangirls and the events that unfold when they accidentally kidnap a member of their favourite boy band, The Ruperts. The story takes place in and around a hotel, besieged by crowds of screaming girls, with our central quartet of inadvertent criminals swiftly disintegrating into a kind of hormone-induced mania, while simultaneously discovering the parallel rifts in their beloved boy band.
I found a lot to like about Kill the Boy Band. It’s very knowing, sharply skewering what passes for culture in the 21st century; the Ruperts, for example, were formed on a reality talent show called So You Think the British Don’t Have Talent? and were arbitrarily grouped together because they all had the same first name (clue: it’s Rupert). Their lyrics are frequently quoted throughout the book and include such gems as “yeah yeah yeah! I’m so excited!/ Yeah yeah yeah! Tonight is the night!” My favourite moment, and the one which made me laugh the most, was the description of the Rupert with the truly tragic backstory of not being able to tell the time.
It’s not all about mocking boy bands though; if anything, Moldavsky is particularly smart and sympathetic when it comes to the actual people concerned. When mocked for her fandom, the narrator (who is so unreliable we never even learn her real name), dismissed her critic as “just another adult who forgot what it was like to love something so completely. In fact, he probably only liked things ironically, which meant he didn’t like things at all.” The Ruperts’ assorted complaints about the reality of life in the spotlight also ring true. Kill the Boy Band is silly but sharp at the same time, with plenty of satire to engage the cultural critic.
All in all, I was very pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this. It seems light and fluffy at times, but this is always undercut by an intriguing layer of darkness. And terrible lyrics.