Everyone expresses their fandom in different ways. As a lifelong fan myself, I try to enforce a no fan-shaming zone wherever I go. Want to stay up all night reading fanfic until you drowsily drop your phone on your face? Great! Want to learn to speak a fictional language from your favorite fantasy book series? Sounds fun! Want to stalk your celebrity crush online all day from work? I’m not your boss!
There are so many books now about fandoms and fan culture that I know my own book, Ship It, is just one flavor from the buffet line of fan-related literature.
So here are some of my favorites:
Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff
Grace and the Fever follows teenager Grace, who is deep in the fandom for boyband Fever Dream, which has long been deemed uncool by her nonfandom (read: civilian) friends. In a fantasy-like coincidence, Grace accidentally meets the lead singer one day and gets swept up in his world of celebrity and backstage drama, all while trying to reconcile her current unbelievable level of access to her favorite band with her inner fangirl who is freaking the hell out.
Beautifully written, Grace and the Fever brilliantly weaves together the RPF self-insert fantasy of suddenly finding yourself friends with the people you’ve been fanning over for years with the real-world truths of how hard it is being in the spotlight. Like Almost Famous for the boyband set, it’s a fun and emotional peek behind the curtain of music celebrity. It’s also generous about fandom while still being clear-eyed about the ways fans can overreach or cross the line. Romanoff is clearly working from a personal and intimate knowledge of fandom, which makes it an authentic and loving portrait of the community.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
This is a meta pick because Carry On is not technically a book about fandom; it’s a fantasy novel about two teen wizards who hate each other and then fall in love. But the book is so shaped by fanfiction that every word is steeped in a deep understanding of fandom and the ways fandom chooses to love. Carry On is the companion novel to Fangirl (also great!), which is about Cath, a college student who writes gay fanfic about her favorite novel series-turned-movie-franchise. Carry On brings Cath’s fanfiction to life. What’s so wonderful about Carry On is that Rowell fully embraces the fanfic tropes that make fic so addictive. (Enemies-to-lovers? Yes! Mutual pining? Oh hell yes!) If you’ve never read fic before, Carry On is a great intro to why it’s so much fun to read.
Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner
Told in a series of unsent email drafts from lesbian teenager Brynn to her hero Rachel Maddow, this book captures how turbulent teen years can be, and how having a celebrity to look up to can be emotionally grounding, even if you never speak to them directly. Brynn admires Maddow’s activism and outspokenness, even as she tries to resist taking up the mantle against injustice in her own school. But eventually, Brynn realizes she must take charge and find the activist spirit within herself. It’s a story about how loving a celebrity can actually make you a better person. After all, no one wants to disappoint their hero. Sweet and empowering, and effortlessly very queer, Dear Rachel Maddow will make you want to use your voice for good.
The Wicked and the Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
Laura Wilson is just a fangirl, but not of a band or a movie or a TV show. She’s a fan of The Pantheon: the group of twelve Gods who appear every 90 years for just two years and then die out. But when The Pantheon appears and Laura has the opportunity to meet them, her expectations are much different than the reality. This comic takes fandom to a cosmic level, yet it still feels approachable and relatable to modern fans—Laura has posters hung in her room of her favorite Gods, and she memorizes all the info she can about them before they arrive. The Wicked and the Divine is self-insert fanfic mixed with ancient mythology, and it works on both levels.
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
Queens of Geek is told in two perspectives by two different kinds of fans over the course of one big convention. There’s such a wide diversity of fanning happening in this book—cosplaying and fanfic and roleplaying and vlogging—that just about every fan will find themselves somewhere in the story. Bonus points here also for the rainbow of diversity, from racial diversity to mental health discussions to representations of all kinds of queer sexualities. Queens of Geek is a fun, funny romp through the fannish shenanigans of a convention.
Britta Lundin is a TV writer, novelist, and comic book writer. Her young adult novel about loving a TV show more than anything else, Ship It, comes out May 1 from Freeform Books. She also currently writes on the show Riverdale on the CW. A longtime fanfiction reader and writer, she can track her life milestones by what she was shipping at the time. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives with her wife and their lime tree in Los Angeles.