WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW!
Back when I first saw this on the shelf of Target, I didn’t realize it was actually one of Oseman’s older books, just released for the first time in the US. I almost bought it then, but had to look it up since I didn’t recall her having posted about any new books, and held off for the time being because I knew all too well how low her lows were when she was starting out. It wasn’t long before I was back, though, wanting more Oseman content, having heard this was one of her best books from a couple folks on YouTube who ranked her entire bibliography. I’d already read Radio Silence based upon their words, loving that one, so this was the next logical step. Sadly, this one was more of a mixed bag to be sure.
I Was Born for This follows Angel, a Muslim teenager who’s obsessed with a band named The Ark. At novel’s beginning, she’s meeting up with a friend, and fellow Ark superfan, she’s only spoken to on tumblr prior to this , Juliet, for an Ark concert. Her parents question her intense devotion to this band, trying to stop her from going to no avail. Thus sets up her side of the story. On the flip side of the coin is Jimmy, one member of the trio that makes up The Ark. He’s trans, anxious as all get out, and fans think he and the other band member, Rowan, are lovers. Thus sets up his side of the story. Naturally, these two characters’ lives wind up intersecting in unexpected ways, and I say that honestly because Oseman did manage to subvert my expectations.
Based upon the cover, I first expected a love story between Jimmy and Angel. That immediately was out the window. Then I became convinced they were each gonna wind up in a surprise gay relationship, Angel with Rowan’s on-the-rocks girlfriend Bliss (What? They had too much chemistry to waste, I thought) and Jimmy with Rowan for real (I mean, he wears a dress with leggings as his normal stage attire and there’s enough smoke for fans to think there’s a fire). But, no, love isn’t on the menu here at all. Bliss and Rowan break up, Jimmy breaks down, the band breaks up and then gets right back together, and Angel learns something I guess? It’s all so very messy. Until Angel and Jimmy were partners in crime, so to speak, I was alright with the book. But once they started hiding away at his family’s together, the book jumped the shark for me.
There were just too many plotlines to juggle here. Lister is an alcoholic, oh and he also is the one actually in love with Jimmy. Angel accidentally ignores Juliet’s attempts at talking about stuff not related to The Ark and hurts her, because she wanted to be proper friends; however, upon realizing this, after running away following an argument about it, she just screws off to the middle of nowhere with Jimmy without hesitation. (Okay, she hesitates when he first re-inserts himself into her life, but not when he asks to go to his family’s place) Angel has her whole belief in love tied up in The Ark, and her image of the band is systematically destroyed by the novel’s events, yet she continues to be hopelessly devoted to them in a sorta creepy way. Bliss and Rowan are drama up until the end. Jimmy’s knife keeps going missing, with Lister taking it the last time (without telling anyone) because he thought Jimmy might hurt himself, only to fall and stab himself (and break his leg) in a drunken stupor. Stuff just kept happening and ramping up and complicating things rather than Oseman ramping things down and untangling those threads, resulting in a not-particularly satisfying conclusion.
Like Jimmy just goes right back into the machine that was giving him panic attacks, and with a bandmate who loves him (and who he doesn’t love back). Angel seems to possibly be trending towards normal finally, but her new dream of becoming a band manager has me a little concerned that she may still be holding onto things a little too much. And, after all the stressed calls, all is hunky dory with her parents. I wish the additional little story that Oseman had included was an epilogue, not just part of the story told from different characters’ points of view, because I really don’t feel like anything was properly resolved. It wasn’t a terrible, book, but it feels confused and slapdash. Definitely characteristic of an author’s earlier work, unfortunately.