Author: Rainbow Rowell
Release Date: 09/10/2013
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Description: Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Thoughts: I have never read a single word of a Harry Potter book, I’ve never seen a single second of a Harry Potter movie (unless you’re counting commercials), and I’ve also never read a single word of fanfiction. I also, and this is probably taboo to admit, didn’t really like Eleanor and Park (my review) that much. I gave it four stars and I think it’s a well done, interesting book, but I didn’t connect with it on any type of emotional level. Fangirl though, against all odds, I connected with on pretty much every emotional level.
From the time I first read the description for this one I was intrigued. And from the moment I started reading I was totally swept up in Cath’s story. I liked Cath immediately. Most of the time really neurotic characters drive me crazy, but Cath who’s definitely neurotic, didn’t. There was something about Cath’s personality or intentions or Rainbow Rowell’s brilliant writing and story telling that just took me away and happily carried me along through 405 pages.
When Cath starts her freshman year of college she’s upset that her twin sister Wren, who she’s always done everything with, doesn’t want to room with her and is moving on from their mutual addiction to the Simon Snow series (think Harry Potter). Not going to lie, I pretty much though Wren was a huge rhymes-with-witch from the beginning. I understand wanting to remake yourself in this new college experience, but I can’t imagine doing what Wren did to a twin sister who’s like my other half.
The minute she arrives at her room Cath meets Levi who she immediately assumes (incorrectly, Levi and Cath go on to have an amazing romance, but I’m not saying more about that because I don’t want to spoil anything) is her roommate Reagan’s boyfriend. Even though Levi is the smiliest, happiest person ever I still loved him. And Reagan, Cath’s roommate, was phenomenal. She’s a total hard ass on the outside, but I loved how she took Cath under her wing while still being totally disgusted by Cath’s lameness.
The whole arriving at college and having Reagan as a roommate is actually the only part of the book I have an issue with. I went to a pretty small liberal arts college, not a huge school like the University of Nebraska where Cath goes, but it seems like a complete impossibility to me that Cath as a freshman would be paired with Reagan who’s a junior. Does that happen places? Also, is there no orientation? I feel like everyone I’ve ever known who goes off to college has an orientation over the summer or right before school starts. Maybe Cath just skips it? But that bothered me.
Moving on, Cath is pretty much a hermit. She goes to class, she makes a few friends in every class, but she has zero social life and spends pretty much all her time in the dorm. It’s extreme, but it totally made sense to me. I wished she would take Levi and Reagan up on their offers to go out or hang out with people from class, but that just wasn’t Cath.
The fact that I can say that something “just wasn’t Cath” speaks to how great this book is. All of the characters from Cath to Wren to Levi to Reagan to Cath’s douchey writing partner Nick to Cath’s mentally unstable dad (there’s a great subplot about her dad’s struggles) felt so incredibly real. There’s no doubt in my mind that people like these exist in the world and Rainbow Rowell made them so well rounded in the book that I feel like these exact people were real.
Let’s talk about the fanfiction aspect for a moment. I was definitely skeptical. It was super cool that Cath’s stories got tens of thousands of hits, but when I first started reading the book this whole fanfiction thing, and even Simon Snow, seemed like minor parts of the book compared to Cath’s story. There short excerpts from the “books” and from Cath’s fanfiction between chapters and I kind of quickly read through them at first. But the more I read the more I understood how fanfiction was just part of Cath. I thought it was fascinating how she felt so much pressure to live up to her fans expectations. There’s one scene, I think in the middle of the book, where she meets a fan and I was just so happy for her. I also became really invested in how Cath was going to finish Simon and Baz’s story and I was getting anxious towards the end!
Bottom Line: I can’t put into works how much I liked this book. It easily makes my list of all-time favorites and if it’s not my favorite book of 2013 is top two; I cried for about fifteen minutes straight when I finished and I tear up when I think about how much I liked it. Rainbow Rowell is a brilliant story teller and the characters here just come alive. Read it the first chance you get.
I received a digital review copy from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Now I’m going to do something I never do and share my favorite quotes from the book because there are just so many brilliant ones:
On not wanting to change even when she’s alone in her room: “And either one of them could be a cell phone-camera perverts.” (Digital ARC location 176)
On not wanting to eat in the dining hall: “In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t google.) Like, where does the line start? What food can you take? Where are you supposed to stand, then where are you supposed to sit? Where do you go when you’re done, why is everyone watching you?…Bah.” (Digital ARC location 176-191)
On first talking to a guy from her fiction-writing class: “She wasn’t used to seeing Nick from the front; he had a boyish face with hooded blue eyes and blocky, black eyebrows that almost met in the middle. He looked like someone with a steerage ticket on the Titanic. Somebody who’d be standing in line at Ellis Island. Undiluted and old-blooded. Also, cute.” (Digital ARC location 519)
On getting around campus: “But most nights she pressed 911 on her phone, then ran back to the dorm with her finger over the Call button.” (Digital ARC location 1210)
“I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and mildly socially retarded, I’m a complete disaster.” (Digital ARC location 2836)
“Smiling is confusing, she thought. This is why I don’t do it.” (Digital ARC location 3234)