Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here
Author: Anna Breslaw
Reading Level: Young Adult
Released: April 19th 201
Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her pot-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.
When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. Scarlett never considers what might happen if they were to find out what she truly thinks about them...until a dramatic series of events exposes a very different reality than Scarlett's stories, forever transforming her approach to relationships—both online and off.
What has your experience with fan fiction been? Did you write it, read it and/or love it? How do you think it’s had an impact on literature?
I wrote (and read) primarily Harry Potter fanfiction, and a little bit of Buffy too, early on. Mostly, though, I participated in these real-time AOL chatrooms where each participant would play a character. It was kind of like group fanfiction, writing itself. It was definitely something that led me to the idea of writing my own stories. Getting creative with these pre-made characters and a pre-made world you’re passionate about, and having a supportive, built-in fanbase for each others’ work, is an awesome and rare thing for writers. Particularly in my (and Scarlett’s) case as a teenager, when nobody IRL really knew I even liked to write and my school didn’t offer creative writing classes.
I’d actually add that cosplaying is sort of similar. Once a year, myself and a group of friends would dress up like characters from our favorite anime or video game at the time and go to Otakon, a big convention in Baltimore. We slept on the floor of hotel rooms or crashed in friends of friends’ dorms. I definitely felt more confident—as a girl, as a person, as a writer—in the context of fandoms than I did at home or at school. To wit, I actually had my second kiss (i.e. my first good kiss) at Otakon. His name was Will. He was so cute, and in retrospect I wonder if he was actually a ghost.
As I’ve been promoting Scarlett, some people have asked me which of my teenage fandoms was “the most embarrassing,” and I thought that was kind of interesting. I didn’t know it was considered embarrassing until I got to college and realized that apathy and unenthusiasm were considered “cool.” So for a couple years I pretended that was my M.O. But in retrospect, I think that’s really sad—the idea of teenagers being embarrassed that they’re passionate about something.
That’s not to say I haven’t looked back and changed my opinions on certain elements. For instance: When I was fifteen, Sirius Black was clearly the hottest; at twenty-nine, Remus Lupin is far more appealing. When I was fifteen I was sure I was a Ravenclaw. Now I know and accept the fact that I’m a Hufflepuff, because I am a grown woman and more mature about these things, and also because Hufflepuff is dope.
Obviously fanfiction’s become more mainstream over the last few years. Just a couple examples: Fangirl, Fifty Shades of Grey, Anna Todd’s After series, Cassandra Clare (however you may feel about her now). I don’t think fanfiction’s taken too seriously in the #SeriousLiteraryWorld but I’m not entirely convinced most fans actually care about that. The point has never been to impress people outside the fandom. My friends and I didn’t walk around with blue wigs and scythes made out of painted Frosted Flakes boxes because we were trying to be Cara Delevigne. I actually think it’s almost the opposite. It’s saying, This is a safe place for us to support each other (which sometimes means indulging our collective obsession with certain non-canon pairings) and we don’t give a shit what you think.
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Previously, I was a staff writer at Cosmo and a sex & relationships editor at Cosmopolitan.com. I’ve also been a contributing writer for Jezebel and Glamour.com. My writing’s appeared in print outlets like The New York Times, New York Magazine, Paper, and Glamour; and web outlets like The Cut, GQ.com, NewYorker.com, The New Inquiry and elsewhere. Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here is my first book but I hope to write more.
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