Thursday, October 17, 2013
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: September 10, 2013
Hardcover, 433 pages
5 Gold Stars
(summary from Goodreads)
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?
There are not enough words in the english language to explain how much I adored this book. Everything from the characters to the plot were unique and real. Cath is a lot like most of the people I know - scared about change and takes solace in reading and writing and escaping the real world. She's a fangirl. She loves Simon Snow and writes fan fiction after fan fiction about Simon and his nemesis, Baz, where she can create a world of her own within a world already made for her. Cath and her twin sister, Wren, used to write the fics together, but then college starts and everything changes. Wren decides she wants to branch out and not be roommates with Cath as promised. So she ends up on her own, not sure if she can handle everything that goes along with it. She isn't sure if her roommate, Reagan, even likes her, and Reagan's boyfriend, Levi, is annoying and always seems to be around. Classes start taking their tole and the only thing that keeps Cath going is her fan fiction and the anticipation of the final book in the Simon Snow series.
This is just a book following the first year of college for a girl who doesn't make friends easily. There is nothing special about Cath. She is not drop dead gorgeous, nor does she wear nice clothes and go out to parties. But even though this is an ordinary tale, it left me feeling like I'd just entered a magical world and didn't want to come back to reality. Rowell has a way with words and just as in Eleanor & Park, those words took normal lives and made them unforgettable. I related to Cath in more ways than one. The feelings Cath goes through are ones I've been feeling all my life. School is hard, especially when you need to go through it on your own, and sometimes making friends isn't as easy as they say it is. It's easy to hide behind a computer and a screen name and write about a world that you know people will love. Fan fiction is Cath's escape, and we all have one of those.
The secondary characters are just as strong and likeable as Cath is. Wren goes through the change of being in college the opposite way of Cath, drinking and partying, which is a completely normal way to try and find your own identity. Cath makes friends with a guy in her writing class, Nick, who helps her venture out of her writing habits as they teach each other new skills. Then there's Levi. Levi is the perfect counterpart for Cath. He is friendly with everyone he meets and forces Cath to leave the shell she's put around herself. He enjoys her writing and lets her read to him. Their relationship starts out like most real relationships would - as friends. But there's no looking past the chemistry between these two and the moment they finally get together is a breath of fresh air.
This book is not all fun and games though, it's realistic in many ways. Cath has a lot of mother issues and her father isn't very stable, especially with the girls at college. It's heartbreaking one page, then fills your heart right back up on the next. It captures the essence of college, of finding out who you really are, and how change can be a good thing. This will be the book of a generation, a book for girls who hide behind books until their brave enough to enter the real world. And, hey, it's not so bad most of the time, but I'll never leave my books behind.
“She didn't have words for what Levi was. He was a cave painting. He was The Red Ballon. She lifted her heels and pulled him forward until his face was so close, she could look at only one of his eyes at a time. "You're magic," she said.”
“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.”
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