This was a real treasure of a book to me. It’s a magical story of fandom, family, friendship, and firsts.
Cather Avery is starting her first year of college, her first year away from her dad, her first year not rooming with her sister. How will she make friends? How will she do in creative writing, when she has to write her own things instead of fanfic?
Rainbow Rowell took me back to my first year of college in a wonderful, bittersweet way. Cath, as she prefers to be called, is shy and anxious and very relatable in this new place. She has very realistic and relatable family issues and school issues—overwhelming projects, misunderstandings with professors, fights with friends and family about serious issues, etc. Her relationships with her roommate, friends, and classmates were very realistic as well.
Rowell also took me back to my entry into fandom. I think I was in a sweet spot for this book in terms of my age (college ish) and my fandom background (mostly Harry Potter for a long, long time), since Cath’s primary focus is a book series very clearly meant to be a take-off on Harry Potter. Rowell did a fabulous job, in my opinion, capturing the essence of fandom and fanfic in general but also playing on some common jokes and tropes of the HP fandom in a delightful nudge nudge wink wink sort of way.
I really enjoyed the way Cath’s narrative was broken up with excerpts from Cath’s own writing and from the “canon” of the Simon Snow series. This was another audiobook endeavor for me, and both the narrators were wonderful. I enjoyed having a Jim-Dale-esque voice for the excerpts.
Finally, I really appreciated the realistic look at issues of mental illness and learning disabilities. I loved that a certain character talked about reading difficulties and used audiobooks, and I loved that Cath was wiling to read out loud to him and actually used that as a bonding method for their friendship.
So, thank you, Rainbow Rowell, for an emotionally satisfying story of fandom beyond “those HP geeks”. I know several fannish people for whom this book would make a wonderful high school graduation gift, but I do recommend it to anyone in fandom or in college. Fandom is definitely the backdrop of this story, but the heart of it is in how to form and maintain a variety of relationships, overcome obstacles, and follow your dreams.
12 / 50 Books in 2014