Here’s the second book I almost threw across the room when I finished it in a month. I’m not sure why I’m being such a conclusion snob, but it’s getting bad. Brace yourselves.
This book fulfilled “Nebraska” in my Where Are You Reading? Challenge.
Cath loves Simon Snow. Well, ‘loves’ is maybe putting it delicately. Cath is completely obsessed with Simon Snow. His fictionalized world of magic, vampires, and a powerful Mage has been one of her true obsessions for years. (Harry Potter, anyone?) Now, she’s off to college to study creative writing and she’s lost the one person she could always count on, her sister, Wren. Wren wants to branch out and discover a world besides that of Simon Snow; a world of fraternity parties, afternoon classes, and boys. Cath is content to stick with Simon. She’s made a name for herself as one of the most popular Snow fanfiction writers in the fandom and she’s not about to abandon her followers for something as trivial as a college workload or friends.
When I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. I myself was a fairly successful fanfiction writer in middle school, though I slowed down significantly in high school. After graduating from college, I actually finished the story I was working on and posted a few more things, but I haven’t touched it since October 2012. I checked my stats last week and just went over a total 100,000 views on my more popular story. So yeah, I could related to a lot of what Cath felt. I’ve never seen a book that addressed this subculture before and as someone who was very involved in it, I was anxious to read. I could related to the stigma Cath faced for her work. They’re not your characters and it’s not your world, so are you stealing from the author? This is a completely different argument than what I’m saying about this book, so I’ll let that one rest.
I loved how unique all of Rowell’s characters were. Levi, Cath’s love interest, was especially well-developed. None of the physical descriptions made me think “This guy is a looker, Cath should go for him,” but everything he said and did made me fall in love with him. I could sympathize and feel for every character, even the ones I didn’t like, such as Cath’s mother. I think I’ll be stuck thinking about the characters more than anything. And really, that’s what rings true about books that inspire fanfiction. (Side note, Fangirl already has 30 stories posted on fanfiction.net.)
Rowell says a lot through her characters. Cath is reminded that while it’s all well and good to like or even be obsessed with something, we can’t forget to live. Cath is so involved in her story that she doesn’t see Levi’s flirtation or her dad’s downward spiral until they’re shoved in her face. Cath also has to learn to use her own voice. Her Fiction Writing class forces her to write without the crutch of Simon and his fellow characters. It’s her greatest struggle in the book and her professor’s comments about fanfiction degrade her to the point of giving up. In the end, she has to find her own story and her own voice to keep pursuing her dream.
I think forgiveness could be the main theme of this book. Cath has to forgive Levi for kissing another girl, her father for not taking care of himself, her sister for neglecting their relationship, and her mother for abandoning her and her sister when they need her most. I’m not sure she does completely forgive her mother, but the other three were stretches for Cath’s character and helped her develop.
My husband teaches middle school and he said that a bunch of his students were reading this title. That disturbs me a bit. There are some themes in this book that are appropriate for the age range of the characters, 17-22, but I wouldn’t want a middle schooler reading it. The book is labeled ‘Young Adult’ because of Cath’s age. This is one of those books that I feel needs to be in the ‘New Adult’ category based on some sexual themes and content more suited to those 16+ (probably 18+ to be safe). My personal opinion would be to have designations within YA fiction for that appropriate for middle school and that best reserved for late high school or college.
Writers’ Takeaway: Again, the ending of this book really bothered me. There were so many plot lines that it was going to be hard for Rowell to wrap them up and I think she let a few dangle. Did Cath finish her fic before the last Simon Snow book came out? Did she ever talk to her mother again? I was very disappointing not to find out. My rating is entirely based on this. I think it’s a writer’s job to bring an end to all plot lines. I’ve heard Rowell’s other books have similarly disappointing endings and I’m tempted to take Eleanor & Park off of my reading list because of this.
Rowell found her audience in those who write fanfiction and I’m sure most of her readers are part of this subculture as well. This is the first book (or first I’m aware of) to address these people and I have to give her two thumbs up for an original idea. I’m glad being a fanfiction writer is not something to criticize in this book. I feel I can come out and say I wrote fanfiction that I’m proud of.
This might not bother other readers, but all of the pop-culture and technology references really bothered me. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction so this is one of the few times I’ve had to think about characters having cell phones and laptops. I think the pop-culture references to Twilight and Kanye West really date the book so that readers even ten years from now will not understand it as well. Then again, I write Historical Fiction so this is something I don’t run into often.
Overall, I’m not sure I would recommend it based on the ending but if you’re deep into a fandom, it’s very relatable. Three out of Five Stars
Until next time, write on.
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