We’re happy to welcome another guest contributor, Mabel Ho, to the Lit Review fold! Her first review is a novel from debut YA author Anna Day.
Who: Anna Day is a clinical psychologist and author from Northeast England. The Fandom is her debut novel.
What: Best friends Violet and Alice are fangirls of The Gallows Dance, a made-up story with similar post-apocalyptic shades of YA dystopian fiction movie franchises. Armed with the power of teenage enthusiasm, Violet and Alice set off to Comic-Con with their friend, Katie (who’s impervious to The Gallows Dance story entirely; think of your friend who’s never read Harry Potter), and Violet’s younger brother, Nate.
The cosplay-ready foursome, brimming with excitement to meet the actors who portray their fictional idols in the movie adaptation of the novel, get far more than they bargained for when they find themselves transported right into The Gallows Dance. Faced with the conflicting choice of running parallel with the canon storyline or writing her own narrative, Violet and the rest have to find a way out of the world they fantasised being a part of or risk being trapped in the story’s endless loop.
Why: Set on the age-old cautionary tale of “be careful what you wish for”, this story was an intersection of dystopian young adult fiction and a subsequent social commentary of the fandoms born out of these worlds. The stakes don’t feel high, as such narrative attempts of a world built within a world can result in flimsy storytelling. But what makes up for it are the noticeable tropes of this fantasy genre and the insertion of Violet and her friends’ fictional reality teeters on an almost satire.
Violet as the main character is portrayed with authenticity and given a nuanced middle ground — she’s not your usual YA dystopian badass (read: Katniss Everdeen, ruthless and unforgiving), or your YA sad but hopeful heroine (read: Hazel Grace Lancaster, dying and willful). She takes us through her juvenile comprehension of having to adult while clinging onto youthful ignorance as she navigates her internal conflict of sticking to the script of the story or ad-libbing her own narrative. Underscoring the entire story are themes of jealousy, confusion, heartbreak, love and friendship, superficially explored through her relationships with the other characters. The story does drag a little before reaching its climax but it was still a compelling page turner in search for the ending.
Best/Worst Line: “And some stories simply need to unfold,” she says. “They need to reach their beautiful climax, existing almost like a life cycle, an entity in their own right.”
Verdict: Much like fan fiction brought to life, it’s a fun meta read, interspersed with all the touchpoints of a post-apocalyptic story, with a splash of overactive teenage hormones. (7/10)
Availability: Trade paperback, RM44.90
Special thanks to Pansing Distribution for an ARC of the book.