Reading recs – fandoms, internet detectives and unreliable narrators

I wanted to recommend some books that are about fandom, if An Unauthorised Fan Treatise has given you an itch for more content that needs scratching. Obviously the first rec is the MsScribe story – it is better than any novel! – but here are some others.

Fiction about fandom

17776: What football will look like in the future by Jon Bois
– this is a free online story you can read at the link. It’s weird at first, but stick with it and it will blow your mind!

A scar no one else can see – free online story that starts as an essay about Carly Rae Jepsen’s music, by the writer of the recent Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency TV show

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite –  A dark comedy novella about a woman whose sister keeps ‘accidentally’ killing her boyfriends. When her sister starts dating the co-worker she’s crushing on, she has to decide where her loyalty lies – with her friend,who might die, or with her sister. This is less fandom related and more murder mystery related, but I wanted to rec it anyway!

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – A fictional take on a spoke history of a seventies rock band feud. A great look at unreliable narrators and biased storytelling.

Ship It by Britta Lundin –  A complex and complicated look at fandom’s hopes for their favourite TV shows, compared to the intentions of the writers. 

Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff – Boy bands! Fangirls! Secret relationships!

I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman –  A dark and funny look what happens when online fandom collides with real life in messy, bittersweet detail. Exposes the reality of being a fan – and being famous – without holding back any punches. 

Heartstream by Tom Pollock – A near-future sci fi YA looking at what might happen to influencers and online personalities in the future.

Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach – a girl who never leaves her house becomes obsessed with a guy online, and stalks him through the internet.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – The classic. If you haven’t read this yet, go now!

The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston –  Funny, crammed full of fandom references and utterly enjoyable, this series never fails to make me smile! 

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie –  A heartwarming, uplifting look at the power of friendship and the dangers of bullying online. Tabby stole my heart with her very realistic anxieties, worries and joy of books. A UK based summer road trip book that will make you desperate to make a book club of your very own. 

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde –  A love song for fandom, this is a great look at how fan spaces welcome and celebrate diversity. Really great autistic rep in particular. It’s a quick read and I really enjoyed this. 

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson – the friendship between two girls, told only through their online messages. Really modern and unique.

Fiction with unreliable narrators

Gottie is obviously a massively unreliable storyteller. She’s already been caught telling quite  a few lies. So here are some recs for other books where the protagonist isn’t quite as trustworthy as they’d like you to believe.

Liar by Justine Larbalestier  – Blurb: Micah will freely admit that she’s a compulsive liar, but that may be the one honest thing she’ll ever tell you. Over the years she’s duped her classmates, her teachers, and even her parents, and she’s always managed to stay one step ahead of her lies. That is, until her boyfriend dies under brutal circumstances and her dishonesty begins to catch up with her. But is it possible to tell the truth when lying comes as naturally as breathing? Taking readers deep into the psyche of a young woman who will say just about anything to convince them—and herself—that she’s finally come clean, Liar is a bone-chilling thriller that will have readers see-sawing between truths and lies right up to the end. Honestly. 

A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland  –  An old man is trapped in prison, accused of witchcraft. An old man who has spent his life learning how to tell stories, and manipulate perceptions. An old man who will do anything to get free. An old man, who single-handedley manages to take down an entire government from a prison cell….. 

Blurb:  In a bleak, far-northern land, a wandering storyteller is arrested on charges of witchcraft. Though Chant protests his innocence, he is condemned not only as a witch, but a spy. His only chance to save himself rests with the skills he has honed for decades – tell a good story, catch and hold their attention, or die.
But the attention he catches is that of the five elected rulers of the country, and Chant finds himself caught in a tangled, corrupt political game which began long before he ever arrived here. As he’s snatched from one Queen’s grasp to another’s, he realizes that he could either be a pawn for one of them… or a player in his own right. After all, he knows better than anyone how powerful the right story can be: Powerful enough to save a life, certainly. Perhaps even powerful enough to bring a nation to its knees. 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  – Blurb: Oct. 11th, 1943 – A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy? 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson  –  This book is a work of art. It’s disturbing and insidiously affecting and has a surprisingly happy ending. I don’t often reread books, but I will reread this many times. 

Blurb:  My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise, I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cap mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead…

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart –  I don’t even know how to describe this book. With one of the most breathtaking, unexpected, I-need-to-reread-this-immediately plot twists of all time, I think this book changed my perspective on what YA is and can be forever. This is a MASTERPIECE. everyone said I’d have to go back and reread it, but I didn’t believe them. I had to go back and reread it. 

Blurb; A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth. 

 Fingersmith by Sarah Waters –  This is set in Victorian England, and tells the story of Sue, a thief, and Maud, the noble lady she is trying to rob. Their lives are tied together in unexpected ways, made even more complicated when they fall in love. Full of twists, romance and betrayal, I promise you that once you start this story you won’t be able to put it down. 

Blurb: Growing up as a foster child among a family of thieves, orphan Sue Trinder hopes to pay back that kindness by playing a key role in a swindle scheme devised by their leader, Gentleman, who is planning to con a fortune out of the naive Maud Lilly, but Sue’s growing pity for their helpless victim could destroy the plot. 

K-PAX The Trilogy by Gene Brewer  – Blurb:  When a man who claims to be from outer space is brought into the Manhattan Institute, the mental ward seems to be just the place for him. Clever, inscrutable and utterly charismatic, Robert Porter calls himself ‘prot’ and has no traceable background – but he claims that he is an inhabitant of the planet K-PAX, a perfect world without wars. 

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk  -Blurb:  Fight Club’s estranged narrator leaves his lackluster job when he comes under the thrall of Tyler Durden, an enigmatic young man who holds secret after-hours boxing matches in the basement of bars. There, two men fight “as long as they have to.” 


I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara – how detective work can be done from the home and catch real, actual killers

Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison – a history of fandom and fan spaces online. 

The Missing Cryptoqueen – a BBC podcast about a cryptocurrency scam.

The Cassandra Clare one (PDF) 2006 – This one is about the YA author from her Harry Potter fandom days, circa 2002 on LiveJournal. A masterclass in detective work

That Lorde powerpoint (PDF) 2018 – everyone has seen this one recently, I think, about Lorde’s affair with her producer. A fresh take on the typical fan essay, that’s very visual.

The Scott/Tessa secret baby one (PDF) 2013 – A view into the mind of a fan who is convinced the ice skaters are not only in a relationship, but have a child.

Kaylor timeline (PDF) 2015 – a collection of meticulously compiled tumblr posts documenting every interaciton that Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss have ever had. A+ work, here.

The real life cult (PDF) 2002 – WHY

Caroline Calloway and Natalie Beach 2019 – Still on-going! See here for more.

The terrifying Korean stalkers (PDF) 2012– this gives me chills, still.

The Dan/Phil one (PDF) 2011 – I really hope the person who researched this now works for the FBI because the level of detail is immense. This is the only youtuber one on this list, but I’m sure there’s a lot more of these kind of essays out there. Happily, Dan and Phil came public as a couple this year!

The inevitable One Direction one (PDF) 2014 – I LOVE THIS. (Also worthy of note: 1D’s rainbow bears)

The msscribe story (PDF) 2006 – The original. The best. If you read the above Cassandra Claire saga, a lot of the cast involved in that will be familiar to you here. This involves a fan who desperately tried to become friends with Cassandra Clare, and ended up causing a huge rift in the community instead. This literally rewrote my brain and made me the human being I am today. (I am old enough to recognise a lot of the usernames in this story. I wasn’t there in 2001, but I was definitely in the HP fandom a few years after that.) Here’s a sample chapter. It’s like the Serial podcast, in the sheer scale of collaborative investigation going on in real time with readers.

More general weird ‘internet detective’ stories

 A Royal Instagram Mystery  – Two royal couples, two Instagram accounts, one conspiracy theory.

By the same author of that article, one of my perennial favourites, which I reread once a year – My 14-Hour Search for the End of TGI Friday’s Endless Appetizers 

The Case of the Missing Hit by Reply All Podcast – A man in California is haunted by the memory of a pop song from his youth. He can remember the lyrics and the melody. But the song itself has vanished, completely scrubbed from the internet. 

My Ex-Boyfriend’s New Girlfriend Is Lady Gaga 

Why Am I So Soothed by Photos of the Olsen Twins Smoking? 

A Facebook Page Imploded After The Owner Of A Hip Flea Market Asked For Suggestions 

Remember That Time Adam From Owl City Declared His Love For Taylor Swift? 

Someone on Instagram is claiming Jameela Jamil is ‘faking’ all her illnesses  – the ‘JJ’ highlight on this instagram 

I hope you find some fun reading! Let me know which of these you’ve read, and any I’ve missed that you love (I will buy them immediately, I promise. I need more, always.)

– lauren

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

One thought on “Reading recs – fandoms, internet detectives and unreliable narrators

  1. hi! i’ve read ‘I Was Born For This’ which is one of my favourite books! i already wanted to read ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ and ‘Queens of Geek’ so i think i am going to buy in a few weeks haha! thank you for your recommendations! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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