Excuse me, who gave Anna Priemaza permission to bug my house and use my brother and I as character inspirations?
All jokes aside, it’s eerie how similar Lainey and her brother Cody are to me and my own older brother. I plan to cut him out of my life for good once I can move out and support myself, so my life isn’t exactly fun. Fan the Fame, however, is very fun.
Something of a companion to Priemaza’s previous novel Kat and Meg Conquer the World, this book takes place over the course of a gaming convention called LotsCON. To help you understand the popularity of the Legends of the Stone game in this book, think the popularity of World of Warcraft, Fortnite, or Overwatch. It’s THAT big. Lainey doesn’t give a hoot about the game, but her brother Cody is a big-name streamer who primarily plays LotS and she’s making money from traveling with him to some cons. He’s also a really terrible person who makes pedophilic comments about a fan and then calls it a “joke” when Lainey stands up to him.
The kind of garbage Cody spouts, Lainey’s reactions to it, their mom getting onto Lainey for “being political”–seriously, this is so much like my life it’s creepy. The main differences: my brother isn’t a Youtuber/streamer and he’s a lot worse than Cody, while I’m a lot meaner than Lainey is when it comes to my garbage brother. (Also, I’m not getting into a romance with any of his acquaintances like Lainey is with fellow LotS streamer LumberLegs, who readers of Kat and Meg may remember.)
Lainey is just one of our three first-person narrators. Our remaining two are SamTheBrave, aka Sam, a bullied teenage boy who’s trying to build his following as a new LotS streamer by pitching Cody his channel at LotSCON; and ShadowWillow, aka Marissa (not that her name is used very often), a streamer of some renown who’s attending LotSCON as a panelist in her own right and looking to increase her following even more after just playing in a tournament alongside Cody gave her a massive subscriber boost. Even if she has to get into a relationship with Cody to do it, she’s determined to make her channel big enough to be a full-time job.
Lainey isn’t the only character my life inspired, apparently! Just like me and like Priemaza herself, Sam has dermatillomania. It’s better known as skin-picking disorder and that’s self-explanatory: you keep picking at your skin where you have wounds open already or even where you have pimples. It’s an OCD behavior, it’s a real pain in the rear, and it almost ensures you’re covered with scars. I wasn’t even 10 when I started having issues with picking my skin. Seeing this cruddy medical condition represented on the page really made me feel better and made Fan the Fame that much better for me. It’s made Sam so insecure and at times self-loathing that I wanted to wrap him up in a big hug and also hand him some gloves to see if that helps him like it helps me.
WHAT LEFT ME WANTING:
ShadowWillow, who prefers being referred to as Shadow and not Willow as Cody and all the shippers refer to her as, notes at one point how white and hetero the convention is. There are marginalized panelists and personalities invited, but she’s still well aware that the scene at LotSCON is very much not a diverse place. I very much appreciate that she pays attention to this fact, but it doesn’t make how white and hetero the novel is much better for me–because the major characters are almost entirely white and hetero. Queer and POC characters are very much minor players.
Kat and Meg Conquer the World was a bit of an uneven read for me, so I really wasn’t sure about Fan the Fame even with the catnip-like lure of the jacket copy. I’m a sucker for books related to fandoms, y’know? Priemaza’s second novel surpassed all my expectations and has me eager to see what else is coming from her in the future.