I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel review – fizzing debut that’s hard to put down

Patel’s searing novel skitters through a world of toxic exes, mean girls and bad jobs – and it’s addictive

I’m a Fan is a fast, fizzing cherry bomb of a debut by Sheena Patel, mining the darkest depths of coercion, seduction and abuser dynamics. It has the urgency of a diary, mixed with a certain hard and sharp clarity. The narrator skitters through a well-observed urban half-life of bad jobs, bad men, mean streets and atomised “third spaces” – a gym, a gallery, a coffee shop – where human connection is hard to maintain and actual love and kindness seem impossible to find. Instead of joy and friendship, I’m a Fan’s world is one of mistrust and thwarted ambition, emotions that extend well beyond the realm of sexual relations.

Each chapter is bulletin-short, like a quickly whirring TikTok slideshow of skits about toxic exes, mean girls and fuckboys (a repulsive yet sadly relevant term for the seducers and liars in this book). Above all, this is a novel centred around voice, and Patel’s is unique and powerful. Scenes, dialogues, reported actions? Forget it. What you want is the grubby stuff as the central narrator gets played by a sociopathic narcissist who straight-up tells her who he is: “He tells me he has a wife, a two decades long marriage – someone he’s not told me about. He says he doesn’t wear a ring because it irritates his finger… He says, that’s not all.” Indeed that isn’t, and none of it will be a surprise.

I’m a Fan is published by Rough Trade (£14.99)

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