Not gonna lie, I picked this up for the title first. I’m an unashamed reader of fanfiction, so when I saw the clever title, I wanted to know more. Then I read the back, and immediately knew this was for me! (Fanfiction doesn’t actually play a huge role in this, though!)
This is kind of in the same realm as Geekarella. There’s a show that’s kind of geeky but has a strong cult following, and they both have conventions! There are stars that love working on the show but not the fame as much, and there are older teens who love the show. But there are also a lot of differences.
Stranger Than Fanfiction starts with a Con, but we quickly leave that scene. Cash Carter is the 22 year-old star of “Wiz Kids”, and he has been for the past 9 years. He’s been going through a “phase” recently, and has been seen getting drunk and hanging out with prostitutes during his time off from the show. Most of the fans don’t mind and are just focused on the next season of the show.
Four such fans are Topher, Sam, Mo, and Joey. They have been friends for years, and the show “Wiz Kids” is what brought them together. This is the last year before they split up to head off to college, and they are taking a two-week road trip to spend some time together before they go off into the world. Topher writes a message to Cash Carter on the actor’s website, expressing his gratitude for creating a show that brought his friends together, and jokingly invites the actor on their trip. To his utter shock, the actor agrees to go.
The four friends quickly discover that Cash is not anything like his character on tv, not that they were quite expecting that. He is reckless and rude, and they worry that he will ruin their trip. But he is also honest, and Topher makes the point that the actor doesn’t often get a chance to be a normal person. Cash opens up to them, and they open up to him in return. He also exposes them to new experiences, and they get to see what kinds of things they were missing by being good kids!
Everyone in the party has secrets, and they eventually all come to light. They all have something major in their lives that are causing them distress, some more than others. (I’m trying not to give spoilers here!)
Is the story perfect? No. Is it supposed to be? Also no! There’s a review on Goodreads that totally slams the book (almost 3,000 words of shredding the book apart!), and while there are good points made, this was not meant to be a piece of transformative literature. It was meant to be fun, and give people a glimpse into how some people who are different than them may be feeling. I didn’t even really think of many of the problems brought up in the slam-fest until I saw it, to be honest. Yes, there are poor decisions being made, many of them, but that is how life works. Kids are dumb, and do dumb things, and don’t think about the consequences. And if they’re lucky, like the kids in the book are, nothing too disastrous comes of their choices. Could things have gone badly? Of course. But Colfer wasn’t trying to shake a finger at poor behavior. He was telling a story about friendship and honesty. (The fact that nothing disastrous happens to the friends is probably not the best message to send to teens, but oh well. That often comes up in fanfiction as well!)
A lot of people know the author side of Chris Colfer for his The Land of Stories series. If a 10 year-old child started reading that series when it first came out in 2012, I might let them read this book. Might. Because this is definitely not a story for children. And if a child was looking to read more by Colfer, I would keep them away from this with a 10-foot pole. There are f-bombs and issues that children before high school are probably not ready for. As an adult, I can enjoy this for what it is while not getting to invested in the issues that are present in it. I also do not have to deal with any of the hot-button issues covered in the book, so that probably helps. I was entertained, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s really all that I was looking for from this book.
This fulfills the CBR11 Bingo square of “Rainbow Flag”
Bingo count – 8 (First row, fourth row, fifth row, third column, fourth column, fifth column, diagonal, four corners plus center)