A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.
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?
In Review: My Thoughts
You guys, I’ve gone and done it again… I’ve fallen in love with Rainbow Rowell’s characters and their stories. There’s so much I love about this book (like, every. single. thing. about it) and I’m going to try not to gush. Too much. I don’t feel like I can truly do this book justice with a review, but I’m going to try.
“To really be a nerd, she’d decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one.”
Cath is a nerd. She writes slash fan fiction about Simon Snow, boy magician, using the name Magicath. She’s such a Simon Snow fan and writes such complex fan fic, she has a fan base of her own. She’s a big deal in certain circles online. Real life is a little different. She’s insecure and lives in the shadow of her twin sister, Wren. While Wren likes to party, chase boys and experience all life has to offer, for better or worse, Cath is more reserved. She’d much rather spend the night writing and fostering her online friendships than hanging out at parties or in bars. She’s so introverted at times that it’s almost painful. But, she’s an easy character to identify with. She’s as awkward as can be, but she’s lovable, strong and smart. She’s loyal to those she’s closest to, even when they might not deserve it. She’s completely adorkable. I loved her almost immediately, but “Emergency Kanye Party” solidified it for me.
“There are other people on the Internet. It’s awesome. You get all the benefits of ‘other people’ without the body odor and the eye contact.”
Cath and Wren head off to their new lives in college at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For the first time in their lives, they won’t be living together. It’s time for each of them to experience life without being a crutch for the other. Cath’s new roommate, Reagan, is pretty much her polar opposite. She’s a partier. She’s always out with a different guy, despite the fact that Levi is always hanging out in her room. Cath assumes they’re dating, but the truth is more complicated than that. Somewhere along the way, Levi becomes more than “Reagan’s friend.” He’s Cath’s friend and confidant. He’s there for her. Their chemistry is strong and sweet.
“Oh, put that away,” Cath said with distaste. “I don’t want you to get charm all over my sister – what if we can’t get it out?”
“She didn’t have words for what Levi was. He was a cave painting. He was The Red Balloon. 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.
I adored Levi from the moment he appeared on the pages. He’s an adorable farm boy. He’s sweet and thoughtful. He always went out of his way to try to include Cath, despite being turned down again and again. There was more to him than met the eye, as Cath began to find out. When he began meeting her at the library to walk her home from study “dates” with her classmate, Nick, I started to hope there was a glimmer of something more there.
“Cath liked Levi. A lot. She liked looking at him. She liked listening to him – though sometimes she hated listening to him talk to other people. She hated the way he passed out smiles to everyone he met like it didn’t cost him anything, like he’d never run out. He made everything look so easy… “
As you might expect, Cath was completely out of her element at college. She was so uncomfortable in new situations that she was afraid to try to find the dining hall, so she was more or less living off energy bars. Reagan and Levi finally force her somewhat out of her comfort zone and get her out and about. For a girl with very little social life, Cath has the attention of several guys. Throughout the story there’s Able, her quasi-boyfriend from home, her study-date/writing-partner Nick, and Levi. I’ll let you find out for yourself how that all shakes out though. 🙂 There’s so many sweet, swoon-worthy scenes and good, old-fashioned teenage angst that you need to experience it all for yourself.
“Apparently, I’m good for something,” Wren said. “You keep stealing all my best lines.”
Wren is a minor character in the majority of the book, at least in a physical sense. She’s not around very often. She’s off doing her own thing, leaving Cath to live her own life. To find herself. While they shared some of the same friends and interests pre-college, I’m not entirely sure Wren and Cath could be any different. They each went through a lot in this novel. I think they both wound up stronger and better because of the events that occurred though. I think their relationship with each other, while different than it was when they left for school, became more solid, too. It wasn’t an easy road though.
“I feel like… what happened last night was just an aberration. Like it could only have happened in the middle of the night, when he and I were both really tired. Because if it had been daylight, we would have seen how inappropriate it was -”
“How do you feel when I smile at you?” he asked – and then he did smile at her, just a little.
“Like an idiot,” she said softly. “And like I never want it to stop.”
The romance in this book was absolutely swoon-worthy in that way only young adult books can be. It was sweet and innocent. It just made me smile. I was absolutely charmed by nearly every character in this book. At the end, despite the fact that there wasn’t a cliffhanger and really, everything was resolved, I was in no way ready to give these characters up. I’ve had such a book hangover from them it’s been nearly impossible to think about writing this review.
“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”
“But you’re so helpless sometimes. It’s like watching a kitten with its head trapped in a Kleenex box.”
Whether they’re main or secondary, Rainbow Rowell writes amazing characters. They’re real. I want to know them personally. By the end of the book, I feel like I do know them. This book was absolutely no exception. Reagan was just what Cath needed in a roommate. She was sassy and outgoing. She pushed Cath. She helped her grow. I want her to be my friend. Professor Piper also helped Cath come into her own. She was everything a professor should be. She was supportive, but she still pushed her. Cath became a better writer because of it. Cath’s father was another favorite. He was complicated. He had issues. But, he was a great dad. I loved their banter.
“But it’s just so good. Nobody writes Simon and Baz like Magicath. I’m in love with her Baz. Like, in love. And I used to be a major Simon/Agatha shipper.”
“Sometimes…,” Cath said, “when I’m reading canon, I forget that Simon and Baz aren’t in love.”
One of the things I loved most about this book was the way that Rowell integrated the fan fiction so well with Cath’s real life story. This is something most authors couldn’t pull off, but she does it absolutely flawlessly. First of all, I just loved reading the Simon Snow stories. It took me back to the days where I would read a TON of Harry Potter fan fiction to get through the excruciating wait between books. I read more Harry/Draco slash than I should probably admit. (Don’t judge me.) I loved seeing what the fan fic writers did with J.K. Rowling’s characters in an alternate universe. I enjoyed reading what Cath did with Simon and Baz in her stories. The world-building in the fan fic and the Simon Snow “book” chapters was wonderful. Complex. It made me wish Gemma T. Leslie and her books were real. I also loved that Cath’s writing in the fan fic world closely mirrored what was happening in her real life. The details about Cath’s on-campus life were incredible, too. I felt like I was with her. I actually have a good friend who went to school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and he was in awe of the details I was describing from the book.
“But there’s nothing more profound than creating something out of nothing.” Her lovely face turned fierce. “Think about it, Cath. That’s what makes a god – or a mother. There’s nothing more intoxicating than creating something from nothing. Creating something from yourself.”
This is a beautiful coming-of-age story. It’s about growing up and finding yourself while trying not to lose all the things (and people) who have made you YOU so far. It’s about learning how to accept new people into your life, while not isolating those who have been there for years. It’s about family and friends, crushes and love. It made me feel like I was a college freshman again. The situations were *that* real. The characters were charming and believable. The dialogue ranged from witty to sweet to teasing to moving and it was sheer perfection. I went through the whole gamut of emotions while reading this book. I was in Cath’s corner the entire time.
“When you break from behind the tree, it’s because you want to. It’s the first breath after a long dive. Branches snap under your feet, and the world is hotter and brighter. Ready or not, here I come. Here I come, ready or not.”
About Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow Rowell writes books. Sometimes she writes about adults (ATTACHMENTS and LANDLINE). Sometimes she writes about teenagers (ELEANOR & PARK and FANGIRL). But she always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they're screwing up. And people who fall in love.
When she's not writing, Rainbow is reading comic books, planning Disney World trips and arguing about things that don't really matter in the big scheme of things.
She lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.