I used to be the blogger called YAL Book Briefs, but I grew bored of the handle and changed my name to Howdy YAL. I also respond to MJ. I like to read, write, eat truffles, and watch bad Lifetime movies.
Confession Time: I used to spend a lot of time on fanfiction.net. I wrote in a lot of different fandoms and I felt like I did develop as a writer there. The pressure of getting chapters out every week, trying to keep characters that aren't yours in character, and trying to write a plot that doesn't regurgitate cannon is a lot of work. But I've sort of moved on until this book....
Well, not exactly. I'm still not active in fandom right now. But this book did make me open up one of my old fanfiction stories and start rewriting it much to my disdain. And, oh yeah, I had a cringe moment or two.
So this must mean this book is pretty good, right? Well, yes and no.
I think probably the thing that made it appealing to me and most people is that it has sort of a nostalgia element to it.
The whole fanfiction and college life elements were handled realistically. Usually, in New Adult books it's party all the time no school at all. Here, there's actually a real balance between these two elements. While Cath's college experience wasn't identical to mine, I could actually relate to it and it was realistic. Same as her fan fiction habit.
Except I could really have done with about half of the fan fic scenes, just saying.
I think that was one of the biggest things that bothered me the fan fiction itself. I'd say page count wise it makes up a good fifth to a fourth of the book. The writing, obviously, is very different from the fan fic versus the rest of the narrative.
I really prefer the narrative, fyi.
The fan fic tone reminded me heavily of Cassandra Clare's fanfics. The part about the t-shirts reminded me of....never mind. At times I was almost wondering if fan girl was slightly mocking them (a girl can hope, huh?). That being said if you know how I feel about Cassandra Clare one liners than you should know how I feel about this part of the book.
Yeah, I didn't like it. Even though I totally knew what Rowell was trying to do. It just didn't work for me.
Did I like what she was trying to do though: yes.
I felt like I was let in on little jokes. The whole Simon/Baz ship was a play on the multipleHarry/Draco fan fics you see on ffnet which I never understand because totally abusive relationship. Though it's not the most disturbing relationship I've seen on ffnet-I think that goes toSnape/Harry or The Giant Squid/Harry.
And yes, both of those exist.
Being in on a joke is always nice. So I'll give props to that part of the fan fic.
I sort of feel similar to about Cath as I do about the fan fics in this book. In theory I should like her she's a neurotic introvert like yours truly, but....
Yeah there's always a but.
And the but here is pretty big. Cath borderlines on having some serious issues which would be fine if they were addressed. I would've liked to see her see a shrink or at the very least have someone sort of put things in perspective for her. But most of the PSA's we get on mental illness and college flipouts come from her dad and her sister.
And yeah, they had their issues but Cath wasn't a saint either.
There were times that I just wanted to strangle her and say grow up already.
Best example: you don't turn in your fanfiction to your fiction professor. God knows if I would've done that, Professor R would've so reported me for plagiarism so fast my head would've been spinning. Plus, creative writing classes usually want literary style of pieces (i.e. stories about psychotic ex mistresses, fucked up dentists, and killer omelets not your seven hundred page fan fic....but I digress).
This was just one of the big I want to hurt Cath moments in the book.
It's not that she was a bad character it was just I had to take breaks from reading this because Cath could easily grate on my nerves, but in a different way than most NA/YA protagonists do.
Things I really liked about this one was that it veered from the NA formula some. Especially in the romance department. I really did like Levi.
He actually felt like a real guy. Well, as real as a guy is going to get on paper. Not only was he physically realistic looking (a.k.a. not a Greek god attending Sweet Valley High or wherever), but he had quirks that weren't abusive. Though I did wonder what he saw in Cath at times...
But that's more about her than him.
I also loved the roommate character. She's almost a lot like my sophomore roommate was like personality wise and was just a fun character.
The plot itself wasn't great, but at least there was one. And it was a plot that wasn't primary focused on the romance or some deep dark secret keeping the characters from having a romance.
Overall, I would recommend this book as a NA book. As I said before, it's probably the best NA book I read. But as a book in general, it's slightly above average. While there were some parts of the book I loved, there were lots of parts that had me rolling my eyes. And I really have to wonder if I hadn't been a part of the fanfiction subculture if I would've liked it as much.
Seven out of ten fanfics. I'd probably favorite this one and review it, but not regularly.