Guys, it’s finally done. I’ve been eagerly reading along, cheering and crying with every update, and now it’s finally complete and I can rec World Ain’t Ready. I hope you’ve enjoyed our fic recs thus far, but honestly, I love this fic more than anything else I’ve ever recced here. If you love amazing worldbuilding, teenaged activism, and musical banter, this is the fic for you.
World Ain’t Ready is a Les Misérables fake-dating fic, where Enjolras and Grantaire and the rest of Les Amis are in high school together. Enjolras is the new kid, and upon arriving at Columbus High, he almost immediately takes up with Combeferre and Courfeyrac and starts a social justice club, because of course he does. Grantaire, who’s had a crush on Enjolras ever since he got a glimpse of Enjolras’s rampant insubordination problem, ends up there as well. The two of them, shockingly enough, don’t get along. That is, until Enjolras asks Grantaire for a favor.
Enjolras throws his hands in the air. “I’m not trying to—okay, look.” In one breath, he blurts out, “I need you to go to prom with me. I need you to pretend to date me.”
“What,” says Grantaire. He knows what he heard, he’s registered the sounds, but his brain unhooked itself from his ears somewhere around ‘prom’, and he isn’t sure he’s processing anything.
Pretend to date me. Grantaire would’ve been less shocked if Enjolras had said, ‘Let’s pretend to be Power Rangers.’ Actually, in comparison, the Power Rangers thing sounds awesome. Maybe he can voice it as an alternative, because—what is even happening? […]
Going to prom together—has Enjolras ever smiled at him? Grantaire doesn’t think so. Even with lofty political convictions on the line, he’s not sure Enjolras would be able to reign in an evening’s worth of glares and judgment long enough to pass as someone who doesn’t hate him, let alone as someone who wants to—make out with him, for crying out loud. Grantaire can’t picture Enjolras holding his hand. He can’t picture them sharing a limo or getting stupid pictures taken or slow dancing or anything. Grantaire has a pretty good imagination, and it’s not like he’s never tried to imagine kissing Enjolras, but it’s a blank.
Enjolras is looking at him. Enjolras is waiting for an answer.
It turns out that Enjolras knows that Jehan and Courfeyrac like each other, but thanks to their school’s overly homophobic environment, both of them are afraid to be out in public. So Enjolras, proving once and for all that he’s a dork for his friends as well as a terrifyingly dedicated activist, decides the best thing to do would be to come out first and take most of the flack.
That’s the great strength of World Ain’t Ready—it leads us into a completely realized modern world, populated with distinctive original characters and fucked-up school norms. More importantly, Grantaire and Enjolras don’t only talk to and about each other; every one of Les Amis has their own lives and their own problems, as evidenced by Jehan and Courfeyrac. While the fic is from Grantaire’s point of view and focuses more on his problems, the others’ issues and interests are always present. We learn about Joly’s webcomic about a cat astronaut, we listen to every rant Bahorel has about the wrestling team, we know about Marius and Cosette’s Disney romance, and Eponine’s family issues fairly carry the penultimate three chapters all on their own. This is not a fic that ignores the world outside of Grantaire and Enjolras, and the fic is better and the relationship healthier for it. Eponine forces Grantaire to take Enjolras off his pedestal, and Combeferre and Courfeyrac help Grantaire realize that Enjolras is not just a scarily attractive bundle of angry opinions. The story wouldn’t work without them.
But there’s so much more to love about World Ain’t Ready—the way Grantaire is written, in particular, deserves all the kudos. The inside of his head perfectly captures his depression and self-esteem issues; they’re so intrinsically woven into his character and his way of thinking that the miscommunication that comes with every fake dating fic actually makes perfect sense in this one. It never feels contrived, because we inhabit Grantaire’s brain so fully that we think it’s perfectly reasonable to think the way he does. (May be a little triggering for those with depression and self-esteem issues.) And it’s not just sad feels; World Ain’t Ready is Sorkin-esque in its banter and its references to old experiments and bands and space exploration, without any of Aaron Sorkin’s exasperated condescension. It’s educational. It’s hilarious. It’s completely unfair how the prose can go from:
Sometimes, at lunch, he feels like he’s in one of those Highlights puzzles: Circle what doesn’t belong. Jehan’s always reading five books. Combeferre seems to get stronger and brighter with each literary discussion, like Mario eating Power Mushrooms. Musichetta drops injokes like of course we all know who Sylvia Plath is. Enjolras gathers facts like a soldier gathering ammunition.
Grantaire, at his very best, five years ago at the absolute pinnacle of his achievement, had a stomach full of ulcers, panic attacks before each test, and insomnia so bad he regularly went two days without sleeping. Sometimes he would tiptoe into the living room as the sky outside was getting pink and sit at the foot of the trophy case, staring at all the ribbons and awards, trying to convince himself he was any relation to the smiling boy in the photos.
“Wait!” says Gavroche. “One more. Just—one more, okay? And this one is the most important. What music do you like?”
Courfeyrac hadn’t been exaggerating about this much: Enjolras’s grasp of modern music is poor. Every now and then at lunch he’ll reference a song, but it’s always from the seventies or something. Grantaire’s not sure Enjolras listens to a single band formed after Gavroche was born.
“The Postal Service?” Enjolras volunteers, with the eagerness and precision of a man who has learned exactly one phrase of a foreign language.
in the space of a single chapter. If you’re still looking for a reason to give World Ain’t Ready a chance, do it for the writing. I haven’t read a cleverer, more relatable fanfic in ages, if ever.