Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell

This was my first Rainbow Rowell novel. I have friends for whom this is one of their favorite authors. I had seen several recommendations, from friends whom I've NEVER been disappointed when taking a recommendation from them. *sigh* Until now. I was NOT a big fan of this book.

There are several things I DID like. The characters were very real, likable, believable, and captivating. Cather (Cath)-our protagonist-has some quirks that are extremely endearing. And Levi is personifies someone everyone knows, the guy who is always smiling and friendly and optimistic. You are just as oblivious to certain things as Cath is, so you do get surprised by a few things just because you, as the reader, are ignorant of anything Cath is ignorant of (most of the time). There was a sweet story line. There is also a lot of baggage because Cath and her twin, Wren (Cather-Wren, their mom wasn't counting on twins and apparently didn't want to think of a second name for the second twin) were left by their mom when they were 8, the day after Sept. 11, 2001.

It was also interesting because Cath is a fanfiction writer. There are really 3 stories going on at once, which is clever and I give Rowell props for that. There's Cath's real life story, the Simon Snow and the Mage's Heir books in canon by "Gemma T. Leslie", and Cath's fanfaction version of Simon Snow. But this, for me was where I started to get a little annoyed. Simon Snow is so OBVIOUSLY a parallel of Harry Potter and that, for some reason REALLY bothered me. Simon Snow goes to a school to learn to be a magician. He has a super smart female friend. He has an enemy at the school (who happens to also be his roommate). He is an orphan. He is supposed to be the hero of the magic world. There are 8 books and the cultural following of Simon Snow with midnight release parties for the books as well as the movies could easily describe the cultural phenomenon of Harry Potter. To me, it seemed weak for this made up fictional series to parallell HP so much. I kept saying "Really?" when I'd read more of this fictional story within this book. You can't help but compare everything Simon Snow to HP and try to convert things. Like the Hare's Snow is supposed to find to the Horcrux's in HP. I also had a hard time telling apart the "real" Simon Snow excerpts from the "fanfiction" excerpts of Simon Snow. There wasn't enough writing difference between Cath and Gemma T Leslie for me to just tell. Unless you go by content.

The other thing I didn't like was Cath's obession with men being gay. In HER version of Simon Snow, Simon and his arch nemesis, Baz fall in love and have a relationship. There are some scenes that are almost love scenes. Now, even though I don't agree with some things about being gay, I *usually* don't have a problem with gay characters. But for me, this just felt like it was thrown in just to be thrown in. To prove some kind of point. It was NOTHING like Kate Morton's character in "The Distant Hours" or even like William in "Downton Abbey", where there is definitely a struggling point with the character and their orientation that taught a lesson or brought about sympathy for their situation. And it wasn't just Simon and Baz with Cath either. When she writes with a guy named Nick for a partner assignment, she turns one of their characters into a gay guy with a secret boyfriend. But why? What is her fascination? She herself, is straight. Maybe the whole point was that there shouldn't need to be a specific reason to write things of this nature. But it was just presented in a way that I thought was too blatant. It was meant to be nonchalant, but for me it didn't come off like that. It felt too forced-as if Rowell, via Cath, HAD to prove a point.

And then there was the language-which I HAD been given fair warning about from BOTH friends who recommended this author. You could tell from the acknowledgement section that the author is the kind of person who drops the "F-bomb" in normal conversation and in places that swear words are starting to become mainstream. For instance, in describing someone she says they are just "f-ing awesome". And if you were a normal run-of-the-mill-every-day-college-student, the language is probably true-to-life and wouldn't be alarming to anyone. For me, I tried to skim over any of it because frankly, after awhile, it got old.

Also, the story, while sweet, wasn't very captivating for me. It was enjoyable, but not if I had something better around. I checked it out and started reading it, but before finishing it, I read the last two books in the Ember series and the 4th Michael Vey book as they got to me through library holds.

So, I'm sorry to those who love Rowell, but this one just didn't do it for me. I might give her one more chance with a different novel, but not for awhile.

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