Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publication Info: St. Martin's Press (September 10, 2013)
Genre: Contemporary YA
The Flavor: Rainbow Rowell meets Harry Potter fanfiction
The Short Version: I could not imagine a more perfect book for those of us who grew up waiting for Hogwarts letters that never came. It makes you want to be excited about the fandom again. Honestly, it makes you want to waste hours reading fanfiction online. Or even writing it.
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?
The Characters: Cather is our narrator extraordinaire, and what a fantastic guide she is. She is every bit the reluctant college student—confused by boys, her future, and typical social situations. I cannot imagine a person who wouldn’t relate to her fear and confusion over what is in general a pretty traumatic time. (I still find it shocking that people expect 18-year-olds to know what they will do with the rest of their life. College is just terrifying.) She is particularly relatable to all of the socially-inept-writer-introverts out there.
“No,” Cath said, “Seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. 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 socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.”
As for the side characters, Cath’s roommate Reagan was an absolute delight. Cranky, funny, and just amazing. Everyone should have a friend like Reagan.
“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”
“I don’t want to be your friend,” Cath said as sternly as she could. “I like that we’re not friends.”
“Me, too. I’m sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.”
The Dialogue: I feel as though my above quotes should show that this is dialogue for the ages. Fifty years from now, people will remember this dialogue as being the peak of dialogue and all will bow down to Master Rowell. It does not get better.
“How do you not like the Internet? That’s like saying, ‘I don’t like things that are convenient. And easy. I don’t like having access to all of mankind’s recorded discoveries at my fingertips. I don’t like light. And knowledge.’”
“I like knowledge,” he said.
“You’re not a book person. And now you’re not an Internet person? What does that leave you?”
Extra Credit: With an amazing amount of creativity and skill, not only does Rowell tell us Cath’s story, she also tells us the story of Simon Snow. We get snippets of the “real” Simon Snow books and some excellent Simon Snow fan faction. It seems so incredibly obvious that Simon Snow is Harry Potter, which makes me love the book all the more.
Parting thoughts: This incredible little book combines all the magic of the best fantasy with the stark reality that the world is not a fantasy. It made me have all the right feels at all the right times. I’m not sure that I could recommend it strongly enough.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: I’m pretty sure Rainbow Rowell is my personal hero.