Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published September 10th, 2013 by St. Martin’s Press
Goodreads Summary: 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?
Ricki’s Review: Ricki was lucky enough to read this book before me and wrote a wonderful review in December, so check that one out too!
Kellee’s Review: You know a book is good when in the first 5 pages you already know and feel for you main character. Cath is like many college freshman–afraid. She has known one world for so long and everything around her is changing. This book is about her figuring out her way. Anyone that went to college will connect with Cath and her struggles of finding a balance between who you were in high school and who you are becoming. I really appreciate Rainbow Rowell’s main characters and how they are not perfect–this makes them so much more relatable. (I just give a shout out to the Emergency Dance Party scene–this made me love Cath so much!)
Oh, and the dialogue! I love the way her characters converse. The banter is hilarious and just perfect. Also, I cannot review this book without giving props to the secondary characters. They are so solid and thought out. Although Cath is the main character, no one feels like Rainbow Rowell didn’t put love and time into them. I especially love their father who is probably the most flawed character but is so full of love. (Oh, and Levi. Who cannot love Levi?!?!?!)
[As a teacher, I also liked the look into Levi’s struggle with reading yet his amazing intelligence. I think it is a great conversation starter and a great example of many of the students I encounter. Pg. 168 is Levi’s explanation of his struggles–powerful.]
And all of the book love! Anyone who has ever loved a book or series will adore the fangirl moments. Although an obvious allusion to Harry Potter, Cath and Wren’s love of Simon Snow will make any reader think about their favorite novel which they lose themselves in.
Also this book is about writing: the beauty of good writing and the struggle of good writing. Cath can write in the world of Simon Snow, but struggles in finding her own world. This actually runs parallel quite beautifully with her finding of her self. She is literally and figuratively trying to find her own voice. (And I love that a teacher plays a role in this.)
Overall, a just-right book. I read it in one sitting and didn’t want to put it down. (It did remind me a lot of Anna and the French Kiss–did anyone else feel this way?), but it really was a solid story filled with just enough love, nerdy, and soul searching.
Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: I can see how many aspects of this novel could be used in a creative writing course. So much of Cath’s story revolves around writing and different scenes or pieces of fanfiction could be pulled out to use in class. I especially like the discussion about “Why write fiction?” on pg. 21-23.
I also would love to analyze more the excerpts that are put before each chapter and how they connect with the chapter. Many have theme connections or direct character connections. They were placed very intentionally and discussing why would be so interesting.
Check out Ricki’s recommendations here.
Discussion Questions: Cath loves to write, but often finds it hard; what is something you do that you love, but often find challenging? How do you overcome this?; How does Simon Snow compare to Harry Potter?
We Flagged: “Cath wasn’t sure how she was going to keep everything straight in her head. The final project, the weekly writing assignments–on top of all her other classwork, for every other class. All the reading, all the writing. The essays, the justifications, the reports. Plus Tuesdays and sometimes Thursdays writing with Nick. Plus Carry on. Plus e-mail and notes and comments… Cath felt like she was swimming in words. Drowning in them, sometimes.” (p. 100)
Read This If You Loved: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, Olivia Twisted by Vivi Barnes, You Against Me by Jenny Downham, My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody