GRACE AND THE FEVER by ZAN ROMANOFF (2017)
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff is a coming-of-age tale that could only have been written in the 2010s. Sure, you could have written this book about, say, The Beatles, but it would lack the distinctly millennial plot the novel revolves around. Grace and the Fever follows eighteen-year-old Grace Thomas during her last summer before college. Grace is a huge fan of a boy band called Fever Dream—One Direction’s fictional counterpart—and much of her identity is tied up in her love for them. After a chance encounter with one of Fever Dream’s most popular members, Jes, who is essentially Zayn Malik in disguise, Grace’s life is turned upside-down, and suddenly, Fever Dream isn’t just a dream anymore.
Grace and the Fever appealed to me for a lot of reasons. One of them being that I’m a huge fan of boy bands. Backstreet Boys and NSYNC were my chosen two, and I didn’t start appreciating One Direction until last year. Since then, I’ve listened to almost all of their albums have seen Harry Styles in concert. He was great. Mr. Styles aside, Grace and the Fever also features one of my favorite romantic tropes in fiction: Normal person gets involved with an enormously famous person. Hijinks ensue. That’s exactly what happens in this book. Grace meets Jes, Grace goes viral, and everything kicks off from there.
What makes Grace and the Fever stand out from other contemporary novels that revolve around this specific trope is that it also makes a point to address the ways in which fandom and the internet intersect with our real lives. Grace is very active in the Fever Dream fandom and runs a blog dedicated to “shipping” two of the band’s members, Land and Solly. Jes, the member of Fever Dream Grace meets at the beginning of the book, has no idea she runs this blog or that she’s even a fan of the band. This secret Grace keeps becomes the main source of conflict in the novel.
The way Grace interacts with fandom and the internet was probably my favorite part of the novel. Grace has friends in her “real life” that don’t understand her love for Fever Dream, so she’s hidden it from them for much of her teenage life. She feels she can’t be her true self around her friends or family, so she finds solace in this online community she’s built around Fever Dream. This novel has a lot of bittersweet things to say about being a teenage girl, and also being a teenage girl who is an intense fan of something. Fangirls are so often looked down upon as being shallow and vapid, that many of us feel we have to hide our enthusiasm for people to accept us. This concept is at the core of Grace and the Fever, and it gives the novel a bittersweet taste throughout.
One criticism I have of the book is the writing style. It’s written in third person-present, which sometimes makes it feel like you’re reading a movie script. It can feel impersonal at times, but also dreamlike and detached from reality, which fits Grace’s journey into the Fever Dream. None of the side characters are particularly fleshed out, either, and Grace herself is almost an avatar for every teenage girl who may have dreams of meeting their favorite band. Despite these minor quibbles, I really enjoyed Grace and the Fever and can only hope to be as lucky as Grace one day.