Reality TV. Los Angeles. Girls. Fandom geekery. Haters-to-Lovers. Girls. Cabaret. Crafting. Songwriting. Fandom culture. Girls. Catharsis. Complicated heroines. Girls.
Okay my review is all done, go read it now.
For reals review: A&B is the story of rival songwriters, political machinations, employing your dark side for good without letting it consume you, finding allies, moving on from your family of origin, the power of fandom, how pop music can heal the world, and also girls.
Life snatches the wig (literally) from Barrie K (PROUD BISEXUAL) when she's eliminated from the songwriting reality show, hosted by her singer-songwriter heroine Tera by she's dreamed of for a decade. Despondent, she tosses off a bitter revenge song in the rehearsal space and takes off for the wilds of Los Angeles, where she happens upon a fandom cafe run by a very familiar face from How to Repair a Mechanical Heart. She finds a space to crash and another to inspire her Next Steps: a Sour Grapes Cabaret, an event to purge the envy--her fatal flaw--from her heart and the hearts of others. All's good until the revenge song leaks, and Barrie gets a call--Ava, perfect speed-songwriter who took the coveted hot seat on the show--who wants to collaborate in secret.
There's a lot to love here. J.C.Lillis's writing is spot-on perfect if you like your dialogue quick as lightning and hilarious, your scenes and settings whimsical as fuck, and your feelings and meaningful and real and willing to look at the heavy, heartbreaking stuff WITHOUT fixing it. I loved the characters (Barrie! Ava! Brandon! Abel! I need to steal that Make it Rain Best Friend Charms gif from Forever YA.), I loved the setting (not so magical yet magical LA), and I loved the rivals-to-lovers plot--a trope growing on me by the book, Carry On being my initiation.
If you love any of these things--music, girls in love, the joy of creation, the heartbreak of growing up and realizing people are imperfect, how to harness your evil for good--check out A&B.
I want to say: Stay here. Stay here with me in the car and let's comfortably challenge each other all night. Let's argue about the purpose of music and the obligations of fame. Let's dissect what we hate and exchange what we love, one pair of earbuds split between us so we have to sit close. Let's sing each other our favorite words and steal kisses in the dark and let's not leave until the night sky pales and the first morning birds chirp, even though we'll have to subsist on half a bottle of water, a can of Whoosh, and the Altoids in Brandon's glove compartment.
"We shall" I make myself say.
J.C. Lillis: Website
You don't need to read How to Repair a Mechanical Heart to enjoy it, but 1. it's awesome and full of fandom geekery/will they-won't-they/road tripping goodness and 2. having the backstory will add to the experience. (I'm also pretty sure there's a cameo from two characters from We Won't Feel a Thing.)