Published by Razorbill on April 19th, 2016
Pages: 288 pages
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads
Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.
When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. And if they ever find out what Scarlett truly thinks about them, she’ll be thrust into a situation far more dramatic than anything she’s ever seen on TV…
This is the funniest YA book I’ve read in years. YEARS. I laughed so hard as I was reading it, because the outrageous observations and pull-no-punches dialogue fly fast and furiously like a Gilmore Girl high on pie and coffee.
The book is so freaking smart, with some surprisingly poignant moments near the end–as well as perfectly in tune with teenagers and their weird, obsessive world. I’ve never felt more affection for the fanfic culture and pop culture references and girl friendships and boy crazies than I did reading this book–it’s like FANGIRL without the manic pixie dream kids, starring one of my favorite YA girls in recent years.
Scarlett is a fucking heroine. She’s all the teenage girls who passionately love all the things people make fun of her for, and she hands it back to them with a smart slam. (One of my favorite moments in the book involves her going off on a feminist rant to a group of middle aged men fawning over David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen.) I love that this is, beneath all its snarky zingers, a story of feminine empowerment and a lesson in how girls should never apologize for what they love or what they believe in.
We get to know Scarlett as she’s recovering from the cancellation of her favorite TV series, for which she wrote years of fanfiction and built a community of online friends. Anna Breslaw is with us today for the official blog tour to talk about why these kinds of relationships can be incredibly significant.
Friendships in the Age of Social Media
by Anna Breslaw
The reductive way that older generations sometimes describe teens’ “obsession” with the Internet has always bothered me—they seem to think that interacting with others online rather than face-to-face decreases their interpersonal skills and senses of empathy. Interpersonal interaction good. Internet bad. I think that’s because they’re far enough away from their own teenage years to forget that before cyberbullying, there was IRL bullying. The Internet didn’t suddenly invent high school cruelty, it’s just provided a new channel for the cruelty that was already there. It’s always been hard to be a teenager.
But I think the Internet has actually made it easier on teens who have historically had it the hardest—LGBT teens, non-cis kids, the underprivileged, kids with depression or anxiety or parents with mental health issues. Anyone “different.” With one Google or one Tumblr post, they have access to a wealth of people and resources, and they’re shown a world beyond the one they’re stuck in for the time being. Even if things are horrible at school or at home, they can go online and find a community of like-minded people who assure them that there’s a bright future waiting, and that’s a lifeline that previous marginalized teens didn’t have access to.
I still remember how long high school felt. Like I’d be there FOREVER. I went to a high school that placed very little emphasis on the arts, and I wasn’t very good at the core curriculum academic classes (other than English), which resulted in my feeling worthless. Like nobody saw me. Neither of my parents are creative, and I think back then they just thought I was being lazy—procrastinating on homework and writing stories for strangers on the Internet. But if I hadn’t discovered fandoms online and started writing fic, I may not have realized that writing was what I was good at, or that I was good enough at it to pursue it after graduation.
Another popular gripe with the Internet is that social media is making teens more narcissistic. Obviously Instagramming food and post-workout pictures are ubiquitous with both teens and adults, but social media has also made teenagers smarter—more aware of the big picture and the experiences of others. #Bookstagram is making reading cool again. My youngest sister, who’s 20 now, has been into Tumblr culture since she was a freshman in high school. She and her friends are more aware of intersectional feminism and gender studies than lots of staunch second-wave feminists in their thirties and forties that I’ve met. Social media is a venue for non-mainstream voices who aren’t necessarily in the media/cultural “elite.” There’s a reason #BlackLivesMatter took flight on Twitter.
I think it’s also shown people that teenagers—especially teen girls—can contain multitudes. A girl can post a cute selfie or a foodstagram one minute and tweet about non-cis representation in YA the next. It’s not just “hot girl versus smart girl” anymore. And I think part of the reason there’s been such a pushback, such an outcry about the Internet with some older people, is that those are comforting tropes. They’re not used to having to reconcile with that kind of complexity.
Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here is available in stores and online now.
This is my favorite book of 2016 so far, and being that this year is already jam-packed with amazing releases (SERIOUSLY, IS THIS NOT THE BEST YEAR IN YA THAT YOU CAN REMEMBER?), that’s saying a lot.
I could go on and on about how much I love Scarlett (and I have), but you should really just read the book and find out for yourself. It’s so smart, so funny, and so feminist–I’d hand a copy to everyone if I could.
A couple of pithy, related items from Tumblr: