Book Review: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
Spoiler Alert is a love letter to fandom, and as an enthusiastic participant in fandom and a writer of fanfiction myself, I truly appreciated the author’s obvious deep knowledge and understanding of what fandom is. I absolutely bought into the character of April, professional geologist by day, fanfic author and cosplayer by night. I loved the premise, of an actor on a big TV show seeing a cosplaying fan being fat-shamed and saying he’d like to take her out to dinner to spite the haters. I was delighted by the idea of the actor turning to writing fanfiction himself due to his frustration with the storyline - it’s known in some fandoms that certain actors do read fanfiction, some have even credited it for helping them to get a deeper understanding of their characters.
Both Marcus and April have major issues to address - not least in that they both have awful parents who are unable to accept them for who they are. April is fat and Marcus has dyslexia and they both experience prejudice and cruel behaviour. Marcus has major secrets to keep, too, with high stakes and serious consequences for his career if the truth comes out, which cause serious conflict in his relationship with April when, of course, it does eventually come out. There’s an intriguing exploration of when and why some secrets need to be kept, and when and how exactly trust in a relationship is breached by secrets being kept too long. I definitely enjoyed the romance arc between the two.
Where this fell down for me was that it was too thinly disguised. There are too many parallels to Game of Thrones, from the cast and fan reactions to the final seasons’ storylines to small things like the showrunners pulling out of con appearances to avoid facing angry fans. If you’re going to write RPF, you need to keep it in fandom spaces, because this got decidedly uncomfortable - and, frankly, a bit close to slanderous, considering the way that the showrunners were depicted.
I get the desire to pay homage to the fandom and the actors and characters you love, but I think it was a mistake not to file the serial numbers off properly. The fictional TV show worked, and the small ‘clips’ from terrible movies Marcus had acted in were absolutely hilarious, but far more of the GoT parallels needed to be removed and especially, those which made Marcus far too obviously Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, or a fan’s idealized version of him. I winced far more than I smiled.
There is a second book in this series based on Marcus’s co-star Alex, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading that one as I don’t think he’s based on anyone specifically, and therefore his story may be less wince-inducing. There’s a lot to love about Spoiler Alert, especially if you’re in fandom and will get all the references - but I think the author needed to work harder to create a new fandom and new characters rather than relying too heavily on existing ones. Four stars for an enjoyable read which had a bit too much cringe factor for me really to fall in love with it.