Title: All The Feels (2016)
Author: Danika Stone
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 336 pages
Release Date: June 7, 2016
College freshman Liv is more than just a fangirl: The Starveil movies are her life… So, when her favorite character, Captain Matt Spartan, is killed off at the end of the last movie, Liv Just. Can’t. Deal.
Tired of sitting in her room sobbing, Liv decides to launch an online campaign to bring her beloved hero back to life. With the help of her best friend, Xander, actor and steampunk cosplayer extraordinaire, she creates #SpartanSurvived, a campaign to ignite the fandom. But as her online life succeeds beyond her wildest dreams, Liv is forced to balance that with the pressures of school, her mother’s disapproval, and her (mostly nonexistent and entirely traumatic) romantic life. A trip to DragonCon with Xander might be exactly what she needs to figure out what she really wants.
In theory, All The Feels is meant for readers like me — readers who have spent hours totally obsessing over certain series, who have fangirled (or fanboyed or fanpersoned) over this character or that OTP, who have created numerous fanworks to celebrate their love for the fandom. In practice, however, this book turned out to be quite the disappointment.
My major problem with this is the characters, in that most of them were extremely underdeveloped and what was there just irritated me. Liv, the protagonist, was incredibly whiny and immature. Her obsession with fandom has led her to neglect her responsibilities: she gets bad grades in high school and seemed to neglect her university work as well; she literally spends days in her room crying about the fandom; and her life, overall, is just completely overtaken by Starveil. This to me is a sign of unhealthy obsession — fandom is good and all, but when it starts to impact other areas of your life negatively, something is wrong.
Her best friend, Xander, is written as this quirky, cute boy with a British accent who is a steampunk cosplayer but dresses like a Regency man. He calls Liv ‘dearest’ at least 58 times throughout the book (I counted — well, I used the search bar), uses the word ‘delicious’ to describe Liv’s figure, and generally comes across as accidentally creepy to me. I dunno, maybe I just don’t like the word ‘dearest’, but I just didn’t like him at all and don’t see what’s so appealing about him as a love interest. Here’s what he has to say about a ‘passel of young women dressed in yoga pants and too-tight shirts’:
“Good lord. Who’d want to? That’s about as unfeminine as I can imagine.”
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with yoga pants or too-tight shirts (except for the fact that the latter could smother your boobs, but hey, your body, your call), and this small comment that Xander made, even if it was to help Liv feel better about herself, made him supremely unattractive to me. One good thing about him though is that he’s bi male love interest — one of the first I’ve seen in YA so far, I believe.
Now, Xander has a girlfriend, called Arden, who I actually liked better than any of the other characters in the story, mostly because she was cheerful, friendly, and honestly quite kind. Her presence, however, resulted in a lot of girl-hate from Liv, who is always so annoyed at Arden and trash-talks her simply because Arden got the guy. Here’s a scene from the book, set when Arden and Xander went to pick up Liv to shake her out of her Starveil funk:
“Rise and shine!” Arden said in a chirpy voice. “It’s time to go.”
Liv glared at her. (Who in their right mind straight-ironed their hair on weekends?)
The other characters aren’t better or more likable either. Liv’s Mum, whose strict treatment of Liv I think makes sense because Liv is neglecting school for fandom, is treated like a villain. Liv’s fandom friends were all great when they were online, but suddenly in real life Liv doesn’t get on with them anymore because they’re middle-aged, fat, pushy, persistent, or just a jerk in general. Liv’s other love interest was a good guy until this one rather over-the-top incident that just turned him into a major ass. Suffice to say, I just really dislike all the characters in this book.
Given that I didn’t like both the leads, the romance irritated me. If you like the best-friends-turned-lovers trope, All The Feels has that, but in my opinion there are better books out there with the same trope, better books with characters that are actually likeable, not frustrating.
This book is not a good representation of fandom. The fans in this book are pushy, immature, and entitled — basically what society usually terms ‘rabid fans’. Liv thinks that because she (and the fandom) didn’t get the ending that they wanted, the creator of the franchise “deserves a slow, painful death”. Xander thinks that “a movie serves its fans, not the actors. […] Their opinion is the only one that matters”.
I mean, I’ve been a fan before. I’ve been devastated by a character’s death before. But never have I thought that the creator deserves death in any way or form, or that my opinion matters more than others who are actually involved in the making of the series. That these opinions are thrown so casually into the book was problematic to me and completely removed my enjoyment or sympathy.
This review is getting a bit long, so I think I’ll stop it here, leaving an additional one star for plot idea, because this could’ve been really fun. Is it a coincidence that the two fandom books I was looking forward to (the other being Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here) really disappointed me? Maybe fandom reads are just not my thing. 😛