Published by Swoon Reads on May 22, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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A teen rockstar has to navigate family, love, coming out, and life in the spotlight after being labeled the latest celebrity trainwreck in Jen Wilde's quirky and utterly relatable novel.
As a rock star drummer in the hit band The Brightsiders, Emmy King’s life should be perfect. But there’s nothing the paparazzi love more than watching a celebrity crash and burn. When a night of partying lands Emmy in hospital and her girlfriend in jail, she’s branded the latest tabloid train wreck.
Luckily, Emmy has her friends and bandmates, including the super-swoonworthy Alfie, to help her pick up the pieces of her life. She knows hooking up with a band member is exactly the kind of trouble she should be avoiding, and yet Emmy and Alfie Just. Keep. Kissing.
Will the inevitable fallout turn her into a clickbait scandal (again)? Or will she find the strength to stand on her own?
Jen Wilde does best when she writes wonderfully diverse characters who are the norm – The Brightsiders features characters who are bisexual, gender fluid, lesbian and also biracial. Although Emmy King is a famous teenage rockstar, with an immense talent for the drums and with legions of fans from all over the world, there was an element of her that felt so real. Having had neglectful parents for her whole life, and being in an abusive relationship, she has an immense need to be liked and loved for who she is.
Reading Emmy King’s story was a bit tough at times – she withstands terrible treatment from her parents, girlfriend but also the media at times. This is a story about her finding her self worth and a supportive group of people outside of her blood – especially when the people who should be looking after her, treat her like trash. When you think she has things sorted out – the same people will come for her and throw a spanner in the works, and it was hard to see her deal with this abuse. She also has to cope with alcoholism, the ruthless media and the industry that she’s in, and she really can’t catch a break.
Thankfully, Emmy is surrounded by a supportive group of friends and a romance, which brings some lighter elements to the story. The romance does tend to overwhelm the book with all of Emmy’s demons from the past, and it really focuses on her coming of age and finding herself. There is definitely more at stake with Emmy’s life as well, especially with the person that she is pursuing, as she deals with confusing feelings with the love interest.
It’s also heavy on the rock star angle – there are some moments where she’s rocking it out in front of her fans, dealing with paparazzi or hanging with her band mates and posting it on all forms of social media. It was definitely refreshing to see the fame and the fortune behind a teenage rockstar, it was also refreshing to see that she’s also just a normal teenager who is trying to work through her issues.
The Brightsiders shows that no matter how famous you are, or how many fans you might have – the problems that you have are still the same as everyone else. It’s a fun, adorable and quick read with queer identities woven naturally throughout the story – where it’s just the norm, which is fantastic. While I definitely think the book is targeted towards the younger YA audience, it is a light, enjoyable and diverse read.
Rating: 3 out of 5
The Brightsiders is available for sale from Australian bookstores for RRP$24.99 or from The Book Depository.
Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me a review copy of the book.
1. What inspired you to write about Emmy, a teenage rockstar who deals with constantly being in the spotlight?
We live in a world that has always been fascinated with fame and celebrity, especially with the rise of social media. As unfair as it seems, there’s nothing the media loves more than a celebrity trainwreck, an idol who falls from grace. I wanted to explore what it might feel like to be that idol, and how the dark side of fame can affect your life and relationships.
2. There’s also an element of parental and relationship abuse in the book – can you talk about how this affects Emmy’s character (being a people pleaser)?
I think one of reasons Emmy is a people pleaser is directly because of the gaslighting and emotional abuse she has experienced. Growing up with manipulative and abusive parents, she learned to stay safe by putting their feelings over her own comfort, and she finds herself doing that in her relationship with her girlfriend too. She’s so used to being treated badly that she doesn’t recognize the patterns or red flags being repeated in her romantic life until it’s pointed out to her, which, unfortunately, is something a lot of people can relate to.
3. What’s the importance of Emmy being in different relationships as a bisexual character?
One of the issues I wanted to tackle is the idea of the ‘bad bisexual.’ During the book, Emmy is well aware that she could be labelled as ‘greedy’ or a ‘cheater’, an all-around poster girl for the negative bisexual stereotypes. It’s something that she worries about and tries to avoid, but everyone knows the media and the public will be the judge of that no matter what she does. What I hope comes through in the book is that there is no one way to be bisexual, no ‘correct’ way to be queer.
4. How important do you think it is to find your own ‘tribe’ or your people who love the same things you do?
I think having a found or chosen family can literally save lives – especially for queer or otherwise marginalized folks. Feeling like you’re different in some way can be incredibly isolating, you feel like no one will understand or relate to your experiences. But when you start connecting with people like you, whether it’s online or IRL, suddenly you realize you’re not alone. There is a place for you, where you can talk or hang out and be totally yourself, and be welcomed. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of validation, of finally realizing you fit somewhere.
5. How are the effects of alcoholism explored in Emmy’s character (through her family and friends), and why is this important to highlight?
Emmy has to make some tough, defining choices throughout the book. One of those choices is: does she continue down the path of her parents, or head in a new direction? As messed up and damaging her parents are, that life is familiar to her – it’s all she knows. Forging a new path for herself is the healthier choice, but it’s scary to step out on your own. I think, when you grow up in a certain environment, that’s a choice you face: do I repeat these patterns or start new ones?
6. How did the process differ for writing The Brightsiders in comparison to Queens of Geek?
Writing The Brightsiders was a much longer process compared to Queens of Geek. Originally, Emmy, Alfie and Ryan were featured in a totally different book, in which the main character was a fan of their band. But I enjoyed writing about them so much that I decided to give them their own story, and the original book was put aside. Also, The Brightsiders is much longer than Queens of Geek, and involved a ton more editing, so in my mind Queens of Geek was a much smoother, faster process.
7. Do you have a soundtrack for The Brightsiders?
I do! Ten songs that I recommend listening to while reading the book are:
- Rebel Rebel by David Bowie
- Palm Dreams by Hayley Kiyoko
- Piece of Me by Britney Spears
- I Knew You Were Trouble by Taylor Swift
- Part of Me by Katy Perry
- Ever Since New York by Harry Styles
- Make Me Feel by Janelle Monae
- History by One Direction
- Alfie’s Song by Bleachers
- Paparazzi by Lady Gaga
About the Author
Jen Wilde is a writer, geek and fangirl with a penchant for coffee, books and pugs. She writes YA stories about zombies (AS THEY RISE), witches (ECHO OF THE WITCH) and fangirls (QUEENS OF GEEK). Her debut series reached over three million reads online and became an Amazon bestseller.
When she’s not writing, Jen loves binge-watching her favorite shows on Netflix, eating pizza, traveling to far away places and going to conventions in Marty McFly cosplay.
A very big thank you to Jen Wilde, Swoon Reads and Pan Macmillan Australia for organising this interview!