Published by Macmillan on 9/10/13
Genres: Coming of Age, Young Adult
My content rating: Mature YA/NA (Some Mature Language; Sex is implied, but not shown; Heavy drinking, etc)
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park.
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?
I had really high expectations for this book because of the way people raved about it. And, for the most part, it lived up to those expectations. The only area where I felt like the book lagged a little was in the fan fiction parts, but that was really just because of the structure of the book. This book is really more New Adult than Young Adult – BUT it doesn’t fit the NA stereotype of being really steamy. It’s what NA could (and maybe should?) be – it’s all about learning how to navigate the world of adulthood and being on your own for the first time. Learning who you are when you go off into the world on your own. It’s truly about that transition from childhood into … well, not quite adulthood, but something on the way there.
What I LOVED:
- Cath’s struggles with being on her own. I think the main thing that I absolutely loved about this book was Cath’s sense of fear and loneliness at going off to college and being separated from the people who were important to her. I could COMPLETELY relate to this. I wasn’t quite as socially guarded as Cath when I went off to college (she actually lived on protein bars for the first few weeks of school because she didn’t know where the cafeteria was and didn’t want to have to ask – or go there by herself – pretty extreme), but I definitely felt a lot of Cath’s anxiety when I went away to school. For me, I was stressed about leaving my boyfriend and my mom (who I was very close with). I lived with my best friend and another friend, but they both started dating guys pretty early on and stayed with them pretty much every night, so in a lot of ways, I felt like I was living alone and I hated it! Freshman year of college was definitely the loneliest time of my life. Well, Cath’s story is very similar – she has a roommate who is snarky and aloof (at first) and hardly ever there. To make things worse, her twin sister is choosing to separate herself from Cath, which feels a lot like betrayal (I’ll talk more about Wren in a minute). Cath also worries about her dad, who she’s always been close with. For the first time ever, Cath is all on her own, and she kind of hates it. I loved seeing her develop friendships and form these tenuous relationships with other people and just kind of learn to find out who she is alone. This book was so true to life (at least to mine), which made me love it!!
- The romance. There is the tiniest touch of a love triangle in this book, but don’t let it scare you away. Rowell doesn’t create an angsty who-do-I-love? kind of triangle – it’s much more realistic than that. The kind of thing that happens to everyone at some point or other. Cath is kind of curiously interested in two guys – both of whom give her enough attention that she wonders if they might have feelings for her. But it’s not like these guys are fighting for her love or anything. It’s more just the natural progression of wondering about the possibility of romance and seeing where it takes you – in the case of one of the guys, it takes her somewhere amazing and in the case of the other guy, it takes her somewhere … well … not. See – true to life. I loved that Levi was just kind of a regular guy that Cath falls for. He’s not perfect with six-pack abs or incredible intelligence or something – instead he’s sweet and loyal and caring – all of the things a girl should want in a real boyfriend (though he’s not a typical book boyfriend). Nate is also a regular guy, though he’s got a bit more gloss to him – he’s a bit edgier or cooler and more what we think a book boyfriend should be. The romance in this book developed at a perfect pace – and I was definitely behind it the whole way.
- Wren. One character that I didn’t love, but who still had a huge impact on the story (for the better, I think – even though I didn’t always like it) was Cath’s twin sister, Wren. Wren made me mad and a little bit crazy, but she did it in a realistic way. I kind of wanted to hate her sometimes – I couldn’t believe that she would just essentially abandon her sister so she could have the fun-filled freedom of freshman year without her. She responded to college in a way that is, unfortunately, all too common (she basically started going out and getting drunk all the time). I knew some people like this in college, but it wasn’t really my scene – that’s just how Cath feels. She struggles to understand her sister and to give her the space she needs without feeling abandoned (and she mostly fails – which I could completely understand). This relationship was messy and real (and so were Cath’s relationships with the rest of her family – family played a big part in this book).
- Reagan. I can’t finish off the review without giving a little props to Cath’s roommate Reagan. She was an incredibly unlikely friend – snarky and aloof – and at first Cath was fairly certain that she didn’t like her at all. But as the book went on, Reagan really took Cath under her wing and the two became true friends. Reagan was still always Reagan – snarky and even a bit aloof – but she became one of Cath’s greatest allies. She didn’t let Cath wallow, which was exactly what Cath needed!
- Simon Snow. So, considering all the things I just raved about, why isn’t this a five star book? For me, the one thing that I didn’t love was the fan fiction – and it was a huge part of the book. It’s funny because the Simon Snow story is the type of story that I would actually really enjoy if it were a full book. It’s pretty much a Harry Potter story with a few variations (which Rowell obviously did deliberately). My problem was that I wasn’t able to get invested in the fan fiction that Cath was writing because we only get bits and pieces of it – it’s not a complete story. So, whenever the fan fiction (or the real Simon Snow story) was sprinkled into the book (which was a lot), I found myself really just wanting to get back to the main story. The fan fiction was important too, though – it told us a lot about Cath as a person and helped build the relationship between Cath and Levi. I just didn’t quite love it as much as the rest of the book (but maybe that was just a testament to how much I was loving the rest of the book!). This was the one thing that held me back from absolutely adoring the book, because it pulled me out of the story a little too often. (This is one of those books that I actually think I’m loving even more in retrospect that I loved while I was reading it because I’m just filtering out the Simon Snow parts in my mind when I think about it – and it’s completely possible to do that – it almost feels like a five star book to me now, a month or so after reading it, but I know it was a four star book when I actually read it – does that make sense?)
Anyway, I highly recommend this book. If you’re looking for a true coming-of-age story where the characters are real and the relationships are messy at times, this is the book for you. I give it 4/5 stars.
About the Author
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.
Good review. I had actually had that one on my TBR for a while. 🙂
I wanted to read another Rowell, and this one seemed to be universally loved. Definitely glad I picked it up!
I didn’t love the fan fiction part either but that is mostly because I am just not into it but this still, was a really adorable read and I am glad you liked it too!
I haven’t really read any fan fiction in real life, but I could definitely see the appeal in this book. I just didn’t like reading a partial story! 🙂
I really liked this book too, but also wasn’t so keen on the fan fiction sections. I did just want to keep getting back to the main story! I really liked the character of Cath though, I think she is so relatable, and I liked that Levi was a lot more of an average guy than most of the love interests in YA books.
I’m finding out that this was a common response to the book. Glad I wasn’t the only one!
Your review reminded me of my College days. When I graduated from High School, I’d just come out of my comfort zone back then, and had spent the previous year before Senior year being very… evasive. Like I only wanted to be left alone. It took me three years to actually connect with people, and to have a new environment all over again after having coming out of my shell was kind of a shock for me that my freshman year was pretty lonely, too. I think I may be able to relate to thise book in that aspect! I’m definitely looking forward to it now, because I know how it feels and I want to see how this character (fictional she may be) will overcome it ^_^
Oh, yes, then you should definitely read it! I think you would relate to Cath. I understood her all too well!
I so agree with you on all accounts, especially with your dissatisfaction with the Simon Snow fanfic stuff. I didn’t like it, but I felt like it was necessary for the story. So I just powered through it, because I knew it was important. [my comment went on for a few more sentences and got all deep and thoughtful, but then my computer ate it] Anyway, great review.
Darn technology! :-0
Oh, I need to read this. You’ve convinced me! I was sure, mainly because of the fan fiction thing (I really didn’t know if I could get into it) but oh how she sounds exactly like me in college! Like, exactly. It’s frightening. I cried for months, tried to run away to home (I know that doesn’t make sense, but it happened), didn’t eat, ugh. What a mess. I even knew people there but it didn’t matter. Yeah, I am seriously going to buy this ASAP, because I think it would be really good for me to read, fan fiction stuff aside. Wonderful review, I am so happy to know that it is a LOT more than the fan stuff!
Yes, the fan fiction side of the story is important, but honestly, if you really aren’t feeling it, you can skim it and not miss much. I’m glad to hear I wasn’t the only one who was a mess my freshman year of college. My poor husband (who was then my boyfriend) kept saying things like, “You’re in college – try to have some fun!” Yeah, it took me quite awhile to get to the point where I could do that. I did eventually, though – just like Cath.
I agree about the fan-fiction aspects! I would’ve liked it if those stories we were shown of Simon were more relevant to Cath’s life, but as it is they seemed too random and so I just ended up skipping over most of them LOL.
Still a great book though!
Yeah, you really could basically skip them and not miss out on too much. I liked the idea of the the fan fiction, but not the actual execution.
I’ve been avoiding this book for quite a while. I have heard great things about it and eventhough I have read fanfiction myself at some point it somehow cannot really interest me, haha. I’m still hoping to read Eleanor & Park soon, so maybe if I reeealy love that one, I’ll give this one a try as well, haha.
I’m nervous about Eleanor and Park because some people LOVE it and some just really seem to dislike it. I definitely want to read it though.
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Excellent review Nicole – I felt pretty much the same as you did about this one, and rated it 4-stars too. I loved Cath and following her adventures in College and well considering she’s an introverted fantasy-geek, it would have been impossible for me not to relate to her LOL I adored the romance as well, especially the slow-burn and realistic development. Like you, I didn’t much care for Wren, but her character truly did affect the plot quite a bit and I was happy she turned things around at the end 🙂 Reagan WAS pretty awesome, I agree!
You definitely aren’t the only one who got bored with the Simon Snow bits. I didn’t mind them too much, but the longer parts with it did drag slightly. My main issue was how abrupt the ending felt. I felt like I would have wanted more closure on certain aspects. Glad you enjoyed this one as much as I did 😀
Hope your having a great week – oh and I apologize for the radio silence on my end, I moved last month and ended up without internet at home for over 2 weeks o_O *cringe* I’m only starting to catch up this week >.<
Two weeks of no internet?! How did you survive? 🙂 Glad things are getting back to normal for you!
I have heard so many good things about this book too. Glad you did enjoy it, even though you found the Fan Fiction aspect a bit hard to relate too.
Naomi @ Nomi’s Paranormal Palace
Yeah, it was strange because the fan fiction was something I’d like to read in “regular” life – but I can’t handle only getting parts of a story!
Ha! I am like SO with you! I really loved this book and Cath was the best character I’ve ever read in my entire life (I related so much to her!) buuuuut…Simon Snow?! I skipped all the excerpts. >_< I mean, it sounded like Harry Potter anyway. So whatever. I just wanted more Cath. I loved how she was a writer and super shy. And I too would live on peanut butter rather than meet people. 😉
Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!
Yeah, I forced myself to read the Simon Snow parts, but I just didn’t love them. Still a great book though!
I totally understand what you mean about the fan fiction… It was good, well written yes, but I didn’t really care and found myself trying to rush forwards back to the main story.. Simon Snow I thought at first was supposed to be ‘Harry Potter’ Draco and Harry but then Rowell mentioned Harry Potter in a different metaphor and the illusion was kind of ruined 🙁
I loved the concept though. I’m still in high school so I’ve never experienced college or uni so I found that aspect of the book reeeeaaallly interesting. I liked that the book isn’t all about sex. I think it’s a bit more realistic maybe. Like, sex is generally like a destination point in a lot of teen fictions but this time the main character wasn’t weirdly overcome with lust and desire as per usual, but careful and considerate and sweet :3
I liked this book. and I LOVED this review!!! Good job! 😀 x
Yes, you have a great point about the book not being all about sex – it’s too typical for books about this era of a person’s life to focus on that (NA is full of it) and there is so much more going on in freshman year of college that affects us. Some people LOVE the freedom of college and some people are freaked out about being on their own for the first time (and away from their friends and family) – it’s good to see both sides of it and to be prepared before you get there. 🙂
Great review! I really liked the statement about how this is what NA should be. I don’t mind the sexy parts in most of new adult novels if they have some sort of purpose within the character development, but I feel like often they are just there for the “shock factor”.
I absolutely loved this book – definitely my Rainbow Rowell favorite 🙂
Totally agree. I’m not against sex in books as long as it doesn’t overwhelm the plot. But I think there should be more books about this time in life that don’t revolve around sex.
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I am surprised you didn’t like the fanfiction seeing as it is a pretty big part of the story. I have heard a lot of things about Rainbow Rowell’s books, and really want to read Eleanor & Park. I have borrowed it from the library recently!
Yeah, it was funny since the fanfiction was the type of story I would actually really like – I guess I just didn’t love it because you didn’t get the full story (though Rowell’s actually writing the fanfiction book next!) and because it interrupted the main story too much. Still really enjoyed the book though!
I’ve not read this book, but do have Rainbow Rowell on my radar. My daughter has been wanting to read this book for sometime, so I purchased as a Christmas gift to shove into her stocking. It will be interesting to get her take on it once she reads.
Ooh! I want your kind of stocking stuffers! 🙂