Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Published: September 10, 2013
Genre: young adult, new adult
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, 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 fanfiction, 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 fanfiction 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? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Cath is a famous Simon Snow fan. At least, in the fandom. She’s written several fanfics about Simon Snow, and her latest mammoth creation is regarded as the final book in the series. But Cath is horrible in real life social situations. Her twin sister, Wren, is anxious to start college and experience all the new opportunities; Cath is terrified of meeting people. At first she likes that her roommate leaves her alone, but her ever-present friend Levi constantly tries to bring Cath out of her shell. She thought her Fiction Writing class would be phenomenal, but her professor scorns fanfiction. And to top it off, Cath’s father tends to experience extreme manic episodes, and this is the first time he would be on his own without his twin daughters. Cath begins college a terrified, anxious girl, entirely dependent on a fictional world to help her get by — and transitions into a more confident woman, a journey beautiful one to behold.
I don’t even know where to begin with this review because this book spoke to me on so many levels! Maybe I should begin with the levels.
As a fangirl . . . I was deeply ingrained in the Harry Potter fandom. From age 11-15 I was constantly checking forums for theories about the books and characters, reading fanfiction, participating in “ship” discussions — everything. I didn’t like to admit it to my friends because speaking about it made it seem stupid. But really, it was a joy playing around in JKR’s world. That’s exactly what Cath does with this HP knock-off world of Simon Snow (which, by the way, the blatant Harry Potter (and Twilight! Ha!) references cracked me up!). It’s so strange and liberating reading a book about something millions of people experienced secretly and openly. I loved how Cath’s fanfic had such a huge following — it reminded me of Cassandra Claire (note the spelling) and her Draco Trilogy. Anyone remember that? Man.
As an anxious person . . . Cath has extreme social anxiety. While I can handle social situations fairly easily, it was such a relief to read about a character who truly does have difficulty interacting with people and day-to-day life. She over-thinks every scenario with any trip she needs to take. There’s a good portion of the beginning of the book where Cath is scared to go to the dining hall, and therefore doesn’t know where the dining hall is located. She’s not afraid of getting lost, but looking stupid: where to pick up a tray (if there is a tray), where to stand in line (if there are lines) for food, where to check out, where to sit, if it’s okay to sit alone (and how to sit alone and look normal, not lonely), etc. Reagan, her roommate, handles these situations so perfectly. She literally drags Cath everywhere with her, forcing her to experience college life without actually pressuring her to do anything.
As someone hesitant about relationships . . . Sometimes the whole insta-love thing works, and it can be beautiful and magical and wonderful. But let’s be honest — more often than not, insta-love doesn’t happen, and someone is extremely nervous in the relationship (or pre-relationship). Cath, slowly but surely, begins to like Levi. She’s not sure how to handle it, considering she’s confused about the Reagan-Levi dynamic and she’s intimidated by the fact he’s a junior — and in college years, that’s like a decade older than her and a million times more experienced. And she handles these emotions like any anxious, nervous person would: she refuses to think about it and dwell on it. As the reader, you notice she likes him because she’s mentioning his habits, his quirks, his expressions: all signs of observational skills. What’s fantastic about this is that Levi isn’t traditionally handsome. He’s not some huge hunk of sculpted meat and brilliant brains and touching sensitivity — he’s a nice guy. It’s so beautiful. So beautiful, it makes me want to cry.
The writing is phenomenal. I love Rowell’s style, and there’s something about her voice that makes every scene hilarious, terrifying, emotional, and heartfelt all at once. It’s raw and honest and real. I don’t know how else I can explain this magnificence of this book, and so I’ll close with saying I’m clutching this book to my chest and never letting go.