To really be a nerd, she’d decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one. – Rainbow Rowell
I am just going to start this review off by saying: if you didn’t like this book, you aren’t going to like my review. I loved this book, and any fault I find in it is so minor. I started this book immediately after finishing Carry On, as I figured it would be a quick read (as all Rainbow Rowell books are) and because our systems were down at work. And because I felt like I was missing the point of Carry On, which I enjoyed, but didn’t love as much as everyone else seemed to be. But man. Let me say this about Rainbow Rowell: she makes some damn relatable characters.
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Rating: /5 Moose
Cather is a college freshman, living a few hours away from home. She has an identical twin sister, Wren, at the same school, but they aren’t roommates. They also have quite polar opposite personalities. Cather is introverted and loves to read and write, while her sister (who, to be fair does love to read and write) prefers to party and have the true college experience.
And Cather is a huge Simon Snow fan. In fact, she’s one of the most famous Simon Snow fan fiction writers. Her sister grew up loving the fandom as well, but seems to have grown out of the fandom.
Cather has to adjust to life without her sister being around constantly, and while living with a surely roommate, Reagan and her constantly around boyfriend Levi. She’s also dealing with being an English major and trying to decide if she has a unique voice, worrying about her eccentric dad, and a potentially cute writer in her writing class.
Cather – The main protagonist of the book. She’s a quiet, introverted, worrywart who prefers to live in a fictional world rather than the real world. She’s a word loving, glasses wearing, self proclaimed nerd. She avoids awkward situations (i.e. eating protein bars constantly as she doesn’t know where the food hall is and the thought of asking is so anxiety causing.) Her father raised her and Wren by himself mostly, as her mom took off shortly after 9/11.
Wren – Cather’s twin. She’s excited to live the college experience – date guys, go partying, have a separate roommate. She’s majoring in market, just like her dad. She used to co-write fan fiction with Cather, but has left the fandom pretty much behind.
Reagan – Reagan is Cather’s new roommate. She’s an older student – 21? – and has to live in the doors due to her scholarship. She has two jobs and smokes, and legit doesn’t give a care what anyone thinks. While she normally ignores Cather at first, they eventually and begrudgingly become friends.
Levi – Levi is Reagan’s super nice, always smiling, friendly with everyone boyfriend. Even from the moment he meets Cather he seems to ooze kindness and charisma. He spends a good portion of his time in Reagan and Cather’s room.
Nick – Cather meets Nick in her upper level writing class. He’s a cute guy and a decent writer, and Cather and Nick begin a bi-weekly writing/library date after they successfully write an assigned story together.
Simon / Baz – The stars of the Simon Snow series, and the loves of Cather’s life. They star in slasher fan fiction that Cather writes, which is almost as famous as the series itself.
Rants, Raves, and General Thoughts
OKAY. I am going to get my minor complaints out of the way first, before I forget them while I gush over this book. A big part of Cather’s journey is her panicking about whether or not she has a unique voice as a writer, and finding it much easier to live in a world she knows and love. The resolution of this conflict is weak, in comparison to the rest of the book. It’s resolved, sure, and I think the conflict lies back with me and my constant tear between work and relationships.
And to be completely fair to this book, it’s so not a book just about a boy/girl relationship. It’s also about familial relations, the sometimes terrifying thought of having to make friends outside of the first twelve grades, and internal relationships.
Seriously, I, just like I am sure a few of my other girl friends, related way too much to Cather. I am still not a big partier, I hated my roommates at first (and unfortunately, never became good friends with any of my dorm mates). There are parts of me that wish I could do college over again, knowing what I know now. Don’t get me wrong – I made friends, I joined a tennis team my sophomore year, and I got through college (I almost wrote unscathed or just fine, but seriously — my college years were LEGIT rough – not me just being dramatic!)
It’s just… everything. There are too many people. And I don’t fit in. I don’t know how to be. Nothing that I’m good at is the sort of thing that matters there. Being smart doesn’t matter—and being good with words. And when those things do matter, it’s only because people want something from me. Not because they want me.
Oh yeah — and I am a nerd. Or was a nerd, if what Cath says is true (See the quote at the beginning of this.) My fandom was Harry Potter, and through it I made so many friends that I still have today, I got back into writing, I found that it’s okay to be obsessive about fandoms, and even had some new fandoms added.
What I didn’t have was a Levi. Dear lord, where do I find one of him? An outgoing, kind, genuinely nice guy who loves hanging out one-on-one as much as a big party. And I didn’t have a Reagan. (What’s weird is I did at one point live with 3 roommates, and one of them had a boyfriend that essentially lived with us too.) I think this sums up Reagan pretty much:
“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.”
Oh man. Rowell, you write so well. There is a make out scene in this book, Cather’s first time making out with a guy, and it made me miss the innocence of young love and dating and just making out with a guy you really, really like. It’s so cute and sweet. And the interwoven Simon Snow quotes – both from the “book series” and the fan fiction? Love it.
Dear Rainbow Rowell,
I am a fan. I am sorry I didn’t start reading your books years ago, and you are officially on my watch list. Your books add such a level of realism that make me yearn for redos and potential what ifs. What I’ve come to learn that I love the most about your books is that they could be considered romantic chick lit books, that’s usually the last thing I focus on. Levi and Cather might be the first couple I’ve loved in your books (though I did enjoy Simon and Baz of course.) I still need to read Eleanor & Park, which I will by the end of the year.
Thank you for reminding me that it’s cool to be a nerd, it’s cool to enjoy and love fan fiction, and that having a balance between the real world and fantasy world is perfectly fine (And oh god guys, there is real Simon/Baz FF. I love it.)
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