Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 9-10-13
Genre: Young Adult, New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, “Coming of Age”
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. 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.
Hmm. I was worried about reading this, because of all the hype. Even though I’m not the hugest fan of contemporary young adult (although I’d argue that this is actually New Adult), there are certain authors and styles of writing that I do enjoy a lot. From what I’ve heard about this book, I was totally expecting to love it. Out of all of the new books I got for Christmas and my birthday, this was the one I chose to read first. I thought that it was going to be an all-time favorite, but unfortunately I just didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would. I hate being this person, this reader, this reviewer…I hate being the downer who doesn’t like books that other people love, so this review is hard for me to write. It took me a couple days to force myself into writing it, actually. But even though I didn’t love this book, I did like it, so I hope my review reflects that.
My favorite part of the book was Levi’s character. I loved how the author didn’t make him this totally hot, swoon-worthy, stereotypical guy. I ended up falling for him, but it took me a while to get to know him and open up to him. He’s not super pretty, he’s not super smart, and he’s not a virgin…but he’s clever, optimistic, sweet, funny, and lovable all in his own peculiar way. I also liked Reagan, Cath’s roommate. She was surprisingly funny and also a little bit bitchy, but she was interesting and I enjoyed reading all of the scenes she was in. I liked Cath’s Dad, too — he was a sweetheart — and Cath’s sister was okay. I didn’t love Wren, but I didn’t dislike her either. I thought her storyline was a bit unrealistic and overblown, like she was almost too much of a foil of Cath, but it didn’t bother me that much.
I also really liked the whole fan fiction thing. I don’t know that much about it, and I’ve never read it, so it was interesting to get an idea of what it’s all about and an inside peek at the behind-the-scenes of it all. I thought it was cool how there were passages of the Simon Snow books or Cath’s fan fiction between each chapter, although I’d say that the quantity of those passages did become a little much towards the end of the book, and I found myself skimming over them to get back to the main story.
Mostly, my biggest problem with this novel was Cath. I was expecting this to be a realistic story of a introverted girl’s freshman year at college, because that’s how a lot of people described it. But it really wasn’t realistic at all. She was so shy and unwilling to participate in life that it was kind of off-putting. I couldn’t relate to her, even though I’m introverted and I had a tough freshman year as well. She couldn’t even go to the dining hall by herself? That’s just pathetic and isn’t something that endears me to her. Instead of liking the main character…I pitied her. She didn’t even try.
And then, after all of this, she still has a best friend, a love interest, a professor that adores her, and even a sort-of-kind-of other guy on the side? I just don’t buy it. And it made the book’s message seem to be “don’t worry, even though you’re worried about college so much that you can barely bring yourself to get out of bed…you won’t have to do anything and a handsome boy is going to fall for you, you’ll get thousands of hits on the internet with your fanfiction bestseller, and you’ll totally end up with friends,” because, yeah, that’s what college is like.
I also didn’t like how the novel dealt with the issue of drinking in college. One of the supporting characters goes out drinking a lot and Cath isn’t supportive of that. The character then ends up being punished for her behavior later in a way that I just didn’t believe. People drink in college…it happens. And Cath had an un-accepting attitude towards it that made me like her even less.
It was a cute story, and I enjoyed the relationship between Cath and Levi a lot…but I found it to be very unrealistic in a misleading sort of way that I didn’t appreciate, and I couldn’t identify with the main character at all. There were also a few loose ends that left me wondering what happened after I finished the book. But overall I would still recommend this book…I just don’t think it’s completely deserving of the crazy amount of hype it’s gotten.