Review: I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman
In 1956, a pair of psychologists coined the term “Parasocial Relationship” to refer to the illusion of friendship between media personalities and their fans. Since the advent of social media and fan culture, the term has grown in popularity, but it’s rare to see an author explore what parasocial relationships actually look like, even when “meeting a celebrity” is a popular topic for Young Adult fiction.
Alice Oseman’s latest novel, I Was Born for This, steps away from the usual tropes of the celebrity story and instead puts the focus on parasocial relationships. The plot covers the coming-of-age story of Angel Rhami and Jimmy Kaga-Ricci. Jimmy is a member of the hit British boy band, The Ark, and Angel is a diehard fan of Jimmy’s band. Over the course of a week, the two will meet, learn more than they ever expected to know about each other, and decide on what they want for their future.
One of the earliest things I noticed was Oseman’s ability to keep her larger-than-life story grounded in reality. She lays the groundwork early on, establishing character motivations and quirks that will be used to move the plot forward. The 18-year-old main characters never act particularly older or younger than they are, and the near-complete lack of romance allows Oseman to add more nuance to her exploration of parasocial relationships.
On Angel’s side of the story, I was able to look at the Ark’s fanbase and recognize pieces of it from my own experiences online. Her story manages to capture all sides of fan obsession, including fan relationships, finding your passion through fan culture, pouring your whole life into being a fan, and being so obsessive you can’t allow celebrities autonomy. When it came to reading Jimmy’s perspective, that theme of autonomy continued into heavier subjects. The Ark has to deal with chronic anxiety, alcoholism, and important decisions about their future, all of which are made worse by pressure from both mainstream media and their fanbase to follow a particular path.
Lastly, it wouldn’t be an Alice Oseman book if it didn’t have an amazingly diverse cast of characters. I picked up the book for its transgender main character, but others might see themselves in Angel’s Muslim faith or in one of the diverse side characters. Overall, this is another amazing Young Adult book from Alice Oseman and a pleasant new take on a tried and true tale.