Book Review: The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky

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Review by Katrina Ortega

DESCRIPTION: New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep. But as one of the few scholarship kids, Rachel struggles to fit in, and when she gets caught up in a prank gone awry, she ends up with more enemies than friends.

To her surprise, however, the prank attracts the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a secret club of students with one objective: come up with the scariest prank to orchestrate real fear. But as the pranks escalate, the competition turns cutthroat and takes on a life of its own.

When the tables are turned and someone targets the club itself, Rachel must track down the real-life monster in their midst . . . even if it means finally confronting the dark secrets from her past.

MY TWO CENTS: Last year was a good one for YA thriller and horror novels, but The Mary Shelley Club really stands out as exceptional in their midst. 

First, we’re presented with a solid plot that is very action driven, urging readers to race through this thriller. Goldy Moldavsky pulls the reader in with a plot line that is unique and riveting, keeping us guessing until the very, very end. The main character, Rachel Chavez, avidly watches horror films as a coping mechanism after suffering a traumatic event while at home alone on Long Island. After the event, she and her mom move to Brooklyn to give her a fresh start. In New York City, as an outsider at her new prestigious Manhattan school, Rachel finds herself without an ally — until the pranks begin. Once she’s falsely accused of pranking the most popular girl in school, Rachel finds a group of potential friends in a very unexpected way. This group, who call themselves the Mary Shelley Club, vie against each other to see who can come up with (and implement) the scariest prank, one which will incite real fear. 

It’s very easy to root for Rachel, even though her decisions might seem interesting, or even strange, given her past trauma. You want her to belong to a group that cares about her (though whether TMSC does that or not is debatable); you want to see her come to terms with her trauma (though, again, whether her horror fixation and TMSC do that is not immediately evident). Moldavsky is so good at writing horror, though, that it’s hard not to fall into the traps that horror movies often set up for their protagonists. The cast of characters emphasizes how hard it is to trust our instincts as readers. The four club members, including Rachel, are all mysterious in their own ways. 

I’m not a big fan of reading about pranks, as they often make me exceedingly uncomfortable. However, Moldovsky weaves them in such an integral way into the plot that they do just what good horror should do — make the reader terribly uneasy while making it impossible to look away. With a cast of characters that we cannot quite trust doing awful things to the people around them, readers will fly through this book wondering with a growing sense of foreboding, worried that Rachel is in mounting danger, unsure if she’s going to make it out without becoming a victim herself. The changes in point of view during the pranks also jars the reader with a sense of the unknown; after becoming comfortable with Rachel’s point of view, the flow is thrown into confusion with the sudden introduction of a new narrator. It hammers home the awareness of something awry, but it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly what. Once the reader is sure that they know who to look to for safety, the twist hits. 

The Mary Shelley Club is a truly thrilling read, full of terrifying moments, untrustworthy characters, and tons of horror movie trivia. It’s perfect for any readers who are looking for some hair-raising pranks and a twist like you’ve never seen before.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Goldy Moldavsky was born in Lima, Peru, and grew up in Brooklyn, where she still lives. Her novels include the New York Times bestseller, KILL THE BOY BAND, NO GOOD DEED (Scholastic), and THE MARY SHELLEY CLUB (Henry Holt). Her books have appeared on numerous Best-Books lists and have been translated to other languages. Her love of 80s movies, 90s boy bands, and horror flicks hugely influences her work.

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The paperback of THE MARY SHELLEY CLUB releases 8/30/22. Goldy’s newest book, LORD OF THE FLY FEST also releases on 8/30/22. Here’s the amazing cover:

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ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Katrina Ortega (M.L.I.S.) is the manager of the New York Public Library’s College and Career Pathways program. Originally from El Paso, Texas, she has lived in New York City for six years. She is a strong advocate of continuing education (in all of its forms) and is very interested in learning new ways that public libraries can provide higher education to all. She is also very interested in working with non-traditional communities in the library, particularly incarcerated and homeless populations. While pursuing her own higher education, she received two Bachelors of Arts degrees (in English and in History), a Masters of Arts in English, and a Masters of Library and Information Sciences. Katrina loves reading most anything, but particularly loves literary fiction, YA novels, and any type of graphic novel or comic. In her free time, if she’s not reading, Katrina loves to walk around New York, looking for good places to eat

Book Review: Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

First, a a few words from debut author Goldy Moldavsky:

Goldy M.

From Goldy’s Twitter account

New York is my hometown. It’s the place where I grew up, the place I love like a person. But the first time I set foot in New York, I didn’t know a word of English. My family immigrated to New York from Peru when I was five, leaving behind my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in Lima. I can’t imagine how hard it was for my parents to move to a new place, and obviously it was infinitely easier for a five year old to adapt, but still—the culture shock was no joke. I remember crying as a kindergartner because I could not understand anything that my teacher was saying. Luckily, there was a girl in my class who spoke Spanish and translated everything for me.

Eventually, I picked up the language quickly enough, and it was this new culture—and specifically pop culture—that taught me to speak English. When I showed up in Brooklyn, neighborhood kids were singing along to New Kids on the Block and everyone was quoting Steve Urkel. I soaked it up. I guess it’s only fitting that my debut novel, Kill the Boy Band, is infused with pop culture references. While my parents were out working hard, I was learning a new language watching episodes of Saved By the Bell and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air after school. Though, I would still watch telenovelas with my family after dinner. I was just as hooked on episodes of Full House as I was on the melodramatic struggles my favorite childhood actress Thalia had to face on Maria del Barrio.

As a Jewish Latina girl who has confounded Jewish people with my Latinaness and Latino people with my Jewishness, pop culture was my great equalizer. And now I have a book that will hopefully be a part of that pop culture, written in a language that I adopted. As corny as it may sound, for an immigrant like me, getting Kill the Boy Band published is my very own version of the American Dream.

Now, the review of Kill the Boy Band by Zoraida Córdova

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: From debut author Goldy Moldavsky, the story of four superfan friends whose devotion to their favorite boy band has darkly comical and murderous results.

Okay, so just know from the start that it wasn’t supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near The Ruperts, our favorite boy band.

We didn’t mean to kidnap one of the guys. It kind of, sort of happened that way. But now he’s tied up in our hotel room. And the worst part of all, it’s Rupert P. All four members of The Ruperts might have the same first name, but they couldn’t be more different. And Rupert P. is the biggest flop out of the whole group.

We didn’t mean to hold hostage a member of The Ruperts, I swear. At least, I didn’t. We are fans. Okay, superfans who spend all of our free time tweeting about the boys and updating our fan tumblrs. But so what, that’s what you do when you love a group so much it hurts.

How did it get this far? Who knows. I mean midterms are coming up. I really do not have time to go to hell.

MY TWO CENTS: Fandom is a complicated culture. ~Goldy Moldavsky, Kill the Boy Band

I loved this book. It’s a refreshing feeling when you find a book that stands out the way Kill the Boy Band does. The book boasts it’s “The most shocking debut of the year,” and I think it might be right. This isn’t the YA novel we’re used to. It’s like a fangirl version of Scream Queens and Mean Girls. And it’s an unapologetic satire, which you need to keep in mind while reading it. It follows four fangirls who idolize a British mega pop band called The Ruperts. They are named so because each of the four boys is named Rupert. They end up kidnapping Rupert P, the least talented, “ugly” one. Every boy band has one. (Chris Kirkpatrick, anyone?) What was meant as an opportunity to get as close as possible to the Boys ends up with girls committing a felony. Things get out of hand. Like, way out of hand. Pause for suspension of disbelief, Weekend at Bernie’s style.

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Zoraida reading Kill the Boy Band on a beach in the Dominican Republic

The girls are at various stages of fandom. There’s Isabel: The Tough One. She’s Dominican and curses in Spanish when she’s mad. She runs a fansite dedicated to The Ruperts, online harasses people who hate The Ruperts, and blackmails her way into being the #1 source for The Ruperts. She’s seen them so often that she’s really at the end of her fandom and more in it for the hits she gets on her website. There’s Erin. She’s like Emma Roberts in every role she plays. She’s the Beautiful, Mean One. Her role is “The Mastermind” of the layers to this scheme. Her story arc and twist are compelling and shocking. There’s Apple. “The Simple One” by a long shot. She doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on reality, and her whims are totally dictated by The Ruperts. She’s Chinese and was adopted by an elderly wealthy couple who gives her everything she wants. They have funded her obsession with The Ruperts, including concerts and Apple’s own Latin nanny (who is an honorary Rupert’s fangirl at this point). Without Apple, the girls wouldn’t be able to secure the super expensive hotel room they need to carry out their plans. Trigger warning: Apple is the target of fat shaming from the other girls. This is where the “friendship” between these girls unravels. They’re friends, but not. This trial is what forces them to remain a unit, even if the only thing they truly have in common is The Ruperts. Once that tie is broken, what do they have left when it comes to friendship?

Finally, there’s our unreliable narrator. She goes by many names, usually plucked from popular 80s movies. The final and most prominent identity is Sloane from Ferris Bueler’s Day Off. “Sloane” is the “Innocent One.” She’s the voice of reason and law in this slice into crime and murder. The best part of this novel is the use of the unreliable narrator. Do we trust Sloane? We shouldn’t, but she frames the story to make herself come out as the “Good One.” Even she tells the reader, breaking the fourth wall constantly, that she very well could make herself as the “Innocent” when she should be or could be the “Crazy” one. There’s a very real moment when Sloane wonders what is the truth in her web of lies. She is a writer of fanfic, after all. What if this is just one more of her elaborate stories she makes up?

Another wonderful aspect of the narrative is the use of modern dialect and internet slang. Gosh, saying that makes me feel a tad old, but it’s true. Sloane speaks the way the internet does. She offers a reflection on fandoms, the mad frenzy of loving someone you only know through music or film, the rush that comes with knowing the intimate details through gossip websites, Twitter, and stolen photos. (I did learn a new term: Citizen Pap. No that kind of pap. It’s Citizen Paparazzi. Duh.) Sloane slowly comes out of her fangirl craze and sees other fangirls through the eyes of their critics. The entire time I think, Why is it that when girls love something, it is easily dismissed? There’s a pivotal moment that summarizes my takeaway from this book. It’s when Sloane is speaking to an adult male:

“You girls…”

Are never taken seriously.

“…should find a nice hobby.”

But we should be taken seriously. We can be amazing. And dangerous.

Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky is a crazy, ultra modern ride into the world of fangirls everywhere. With ROTFL moments and girls who are as smart as they are mean, as cunning as they are unreliable, it is a must read.

*Bonus points for cleverly threading in boy band lyrics throughout the novel. #ItsTheHardestThingIllEverHaveToDo.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

From Goldy’s Tumblr

Goldy Moldavsky writes YA fiction from her hometown of Brooklyn. She studied journalism in college, where she got to interview some cool celebrities for her school paper. After a bit she realized it’d be more fun making up stories about celebrities, so that’s what she does in her writing. Some of her influences include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the esteemed works of John Irving, and the Mexican telenovelas she grew up watching with her mother. Follow her on Twitter @GoldyWrites and visit her website.

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