Main Characters: Cath, Wren, Levi, Reagan
Synopsis: Cath and her twin sister, Wren, are off to college. They used to be as close as twins can be, but they’re not rooming together at college. They’re not even speaking to each other much. Cath buries herself in writing fanfiction of the hottest Wizarding Boy series ever, hiding from her scary new roommate and the parade of hot boys that follow her into the room. One of them hangs around more than the others, and that’s Levi. Levi is also… really hot? But Cath can’t date anyone. There’s no room in her heart for anyone but Simon and Baz, let alone the boyfriend of her roommate. Or is there more to this scenario than meets the eye?
- “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,” Reagan said. “I’m sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.”
- Kanye always crawled right under her skin. He was the perfect antidote to any serious frustration. Just enough angry, just enough indignant, just enough the-world-will-never-know-how-ridiculously-awesome-I-am. Just enough poet.
- His corned beef hash came. A whole mess of it. He moved Cath’s coffee cup to the table and scooped hash onto her saucer. Cath at it– it was easier than arguing. She’d been arguing all day, and so far, no one had listened. And besides, the corned beef hash was really good, like they made it fresh with real corned beef, and there were two sunny-side-up eggs on top.
- It smelled like Levi. And some sort of warm, spicy thing that might be cologne. Or soap. Or deodorant. Levi sat on her bed so often, it was all familiar. Sometimes he smelled like cigarette smoke, but not tonight. Sometimes like beer.
- “Dad’s sick, Wren,” she said as calmly as she could manage. She scraped the omelette out of the pan and dropped it onto a plate. “And your omelette’s burnt. And I’d rather be broken than wasted.”
- “I really hate her,” Cath said, shaking her head, trying to imagine what kind of mother cried on the first day of kindergarten, then walked out in the middle of third grade.
Review: This was my first encounter with a book by Rainbow Rowell, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. There are very few writers willing to tackle the subject of fanfiction in a novel, let alone slash fanfiction, and if such subjects are broached, they’re usually being mocked. But Rowell went full-hog with this one: interspersed between chapters are passages not only from Cath’s multiple fanfiction endeavours, but from the actual text that Cath is spinning off of. (Now THAT’S dedication.) The Wizarding Boy stories bears a resemblance to some other Wizarding Boy story, which just makes the fanfiction in the book… threefold! (Deeper. We have to go deeper.)
Anyway, Cath is dealing with some shit. (Spoilers ahead.) She becomes estranged from her twin, Wren, at college, because Wren is into the “traditional” college things– drinking, dancing, staying out all night, and kissing frat boys. Cath wants nothing to do with any of that, and it’s seen by many as a strange choice. I can identify with that, though, as I think many people who read the book will. I rarely ever drink, I’ve never done drugs, and while I am usually awake all night, it’s not because I’m out partying– I’m here on my computer. It’s definitely not the social choice to make, so I think Cath and I definitely have a bit of introversion in common.
Except that Wren used to be the same way. She even used to help Cath co-author the stories. And if she wasn’t writing them, she was editing them. Now, she doesn’t want anything to do with Simon & Baz, and Cath can’t help but feel betrayed.
Cath does have some deep-seeded issues, though. Their mother ran out on them when Cath and Wren were in third grade and never looked back– until now. She’s made contact, and while Cath doesn’t want anything to do with her, Wren is (again) doing the traitorous thing and spending time with their mother. Their father never completely recovered from the blow, either. He’s in and out of depression, sometimes not bothering to work or eat breakfast, and it’s a constant source of worry for Cath.
That’s why she doesn’t talk to her roommate until her roommate initiates contact, and that’s why she’s afraid of anything resembling a relationship with Levi: she doesn’t want to end up like her mother, who not only leaves people but leaves them reeling. And she doesn’t want to end up like her father, who’s two bananas shy of a bushel. However, Cath has to come to realize that those aren’t her only two choices: she’s allowed to end up as Cath.
At any rate, Rowell spins a beautiful, realistic world with beautifully troubled characters (even in the fanfiction segments). It’s definitely a personal plot line rather than an adventurous one, but that’s all right; I don’t think we ever need adventure, regardless of what American movie trailers try to tell us. (Did you know we get different trailers than other countries? In Europe, for example, the trailers appear to the emotional side of the story. In America? BLOW EVERYTHING UP.) But I digress. If you haven’t yet picked up any of Rowell’s books, this is a great place to start.
(This book features cover art by the amazing Gingerhaze! Check out her work, too, if you’ve somehow managed to miss it!)