Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: September 10th, 2013
Source: Borrowed from my local library
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?
I never really understood the whole book boyfriend thing UNTIL THIS BOOK. Listening to the audiobook and halfway through I was absolutely in love with Levi. This is my first Rainbow Rowell novel- are all of her characters so well-developed and real? I’m not normally a big contemporary fan, but this has me reconsidering. The romantic interests are not all swoony-attractive with a heart of gold and no actual flaws. The foils in the subplots aren’t unattractive or smarmy or interfering. One of the parents is actually a huge presence in the life of the protagonist. It’s a group of characters living their messy, mysterious, messed-up lives. I LOVED it. And I double loved the audiobook narrator (Rebecca Lowman, with some by Maxwell Caulfield), who captured the nuances so beautifully, not once did I find myself mentally correcting pronunciation or thinking I’d have emphasized the sentence differently.
And then Cath herself. I could relate to her awkwardness in college, her outsider-ness with the fan fiction, her fear of disappointing others, and her boy-confusion that was not MPDG or “cute”. I’m not at all like Cath in most ways- not nearly as good a writer, not frowny or standoffish, not a caretaker, not abandoned by my mother or part of a twin set, etc. But I felt so connected to her, so with her.
I saw Nick’s thing coming a mile off- not because it was predictable at all, but because THAT WAS MY COLLEGE EXPERIENCE. Rainbow Rowell crawled inside my head, or we’re living parallel lives, or something. Her writing is too genuine to be just careful study (though it’s so polished, she clearly worked hard at it). She also handles tough issues like mental/behavioral illness with subtlety and respect, and yet she doesn’t flinch away from it. There’s no redeemed bad character trope, and not everyone in the book is forgivable or even likable (certainly not all the time).
The one of the other best things about this book- it isn’t all about the love story, or all about Cath’s relationship with her sister, or all about any one thing. It has so many elements, so many ended and opened things. I’m having difficulty laying out my thoughts without squeeing all over the place, because this book surprised me in all the best possible ways. Even non-YA readers will, I think, enjoy it.
This book has absolutely sold me on Rainbow Rowell. And I think I’ll be holding on to my Levi crush forever and ever. If you like realistic characters, believable romance, believable family dynamic, earnestly awkward characters, reminiscing about college, and falling in love with Levi (because YOU WILL), read it.