Oh, Rainbow Rowell. Your writing is always quirky and cute and witty and smart. But alas, this book did not live up to my expectations post-Eleanor and Park.
There was A LOT going on in this book. A lot. A WHOLE LOT. And as ambitious as it was to keep all of the plot points and crises in the air, it got a bit muddled.
But what's it about, you ask? Here we go...
Cath and Wren Avery are twins moving away to college for the first time. Cath is our protagonist, and she deals with a lot of social anxiety issues. To cap it all off, since arriving at university,Wren doesn't want much to do with Cath. She's ready to spread her wings and fly (drink, go to frat parties). Cath is left with a weird roommate named Reagan and her roommate's overly enthusiastic maybe-boyfriend, Levi.
Cath is grappling with the college experience all the way around. From navigating the cafeteria to figuring out her Fiction Writing class. She finds solace in fandom and writing fan fiction about a book series that sounds oddly like Harry Potter, but in this case called the Simon Snow series. Each chapter in the book is rounded out by an excerpt from the Simon Snow novels, OR an excerpt of Cath's fan fiction version of Simon Snow.
And as if that wasn't enough, Cath's dad is manic-depressive so she worries about him. And her long-gone mother is back on the scene and seemingly wants to rehash her relationship with the twin daughters she abandoned. Oh, and there are love problems (Levi isn't Regan's boyfriend; he likes Cath), and then there's her squirrely Fiction Writing partner.
OMG! All the problems. All the conflicts. All the crises!
If you enjoyed Rainbow Rowell's writing in Eleanor and Park, you should definitely give this one a go. If you're new to Rowell's work, start with Eleanor and Park. Seriously. This was a cute, fun book, but the gazillion issues were annoying at times. As were all the Simon Snow bits. Truthfully, I just find it hard to care about a fake novel that sounds too much like HP.
Where Rowell shines in this novel is in Cath's relationships with the people closest to her. Reagan and Cath's interactions are spirited and witty. Cath's relationship with Levi is a hoot, and sweet, and intense. Her relationship with her twin sister is complicated and multifaceted. If the focus of the book had remained on these characters, I think it would've been a much stronger novel. The other plot threads seemed unexamined and superfluous.
I stayed up entirely too late reading this book (on a work night), and I really enjoyed parts of it while I found myself skimming others. I will most certainly read more of Rainbow Rowell--I'm looking forward to Attachments--but if you're looking for another Eleanor and Park, this isn't it.
Pub. Date: Upcoming -- September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Source: Gifted to me from a friend.
Here is my vlog review if you're into that sort of thing...