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REVIEW:  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

REVIEW: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

 

“Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? Open her heart to someone?

Or will she just go on living inside somebody else’s fiction?”

Dear Ms. Rowell,

Your books have the ability to take me back to certain times in my life. From the weirdness of Y2K, to the social acceptance issues of high school, to the jumble of conflicting emotions that signal the new world of college, I remember it and feel that you’ve captured the essence. I love that you set your books in Nebraska. So often it’s Texas, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado that get all the Midwestern US state love so “Go Nebraska!”

 Fangirl by Rainbow RowellCath not only has to deal with being a freshman at college, she also has to come to terms with her twin sister’s desire for independence from their twindom. I think you’ve nailed that awkward lurch towards independence that is freshman year. Excitement crossed with a little uncertainty and some bad decisions.

Cath and Co aren’t perfect. When she continues to argue her point about submitting her fanfic story for an original writing assignment with her professor, I wanted to pip up from the back of the office and say, “Don’t keep digging the hole any deeper.” and “No, you can’t submit true fanfic as an original work.” When Levi reminds Cath that she’s lucky her professor is giving her a second chance and Cath still shows a hint of sulk, I wanted to say, “this doesn’t happen in the real world after graduation.” Unfortunately, Wren’s battles with alcohol play out on college campuses each year. But then the sisters are still 18 and learning.

As for the actual reams of Simon Snow fanfic included in the story, it does show that Cath is a good author. Plus she reads it aloud to Levi it does serve as a kind of initial bonding experience between them but I did get tired of it. I wanted more of the real world and less of the “Simon Snow” world – more Cath, Wren, Levi and Cath’s wonderful roommate Reagan and less fanfic.

Is Levi too perfect? Yes, Levi is almost too perfect. He’s the perfect starter boyfriend who might in the future merge into the perfect keeper boyfriend and maybe more. He’s cute in his own receding hairline way, he doesn’t push Cath too far or too fast, he has the patience of Job for Cath’s fumbling foray into dating, he’s supportive of Cath’s fanfic writing and the time she and Wren need to reestablish their relationship. He’s funny, he’s well mannered and an all around decent guy. I love that he is all this but one or two faults beyond occasionally filching Cath’s power bars would have made him a touch more real.

Cath and Wren’s relationship with their father and mother served as the opening basis for the girls’ deepening involvement into the Simon Snow fandom. When their mother left and their father would get into his manic moods, they could control something in their lives by controlling the fanfic. Cath’s writing gets polished and honed from her time in the world – much like that of some now famous authors. She just has to gather her courage and confidence built over her two semesters at UNL and step off the Snow cliff into her own fiction. I doubt that the 1st semester Cath could have done it but after watching her grow and change, I can see that by the end of the book, she’s ready to try her wings.

The ending feels confident for these characters and open ended. Cath and Wren have survived their freshman year, found people they care for and about, the Simon Snow fanfic has been wrapped up, Cath has taken baby steps towards finding her own way in her own fiction and feels secure about her feelings towards her mother. At one point, after he’s started to try and convince Cath to date him, Levi asks her, “Are you rooting for me to win?” Well, I was rooting for all of them. B

~Jayne

 

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REVIEW:  Lover Undercover by Samanthe Beck

REVIEW: Lover Undercover by Samanthe Beck

Dear Ms. Beck:

Part of this book was great. The other parts made me cringe and I used SHOUTY notes at points on the PDF review copy I received. BUT, I was engaged for most of the book which is more than I can say about some of the stories I’ve been reading.

Samanthe Beck lover undercover
When her stripper sister gets injured, Kylie Roberts is forced to go on stage to save Stacy’s place at the Deuces. Kylie is kind of a judgmental sister. She doesn’t approve of her sister’s stripping even though it is what pays for the high rent apartment they rent (“even though her income as a yoga instructor barely covered a third of the rent.”). To be fair to Kylie, no one approves of the stripping including both Kylie and Stacy’s love interest. What frustrated me about this was that Kylie and Stacy came from the same oppressed small town, one that was super judgmental about both of them and their family.

And on that particular point, Kylie and Stacy agreed one hundred percent. The only thing more unacceptable than being homeless in LA? Returning to their tiny, backward hometown of Two Trout,
Tennessee, as the penniless failures all the naysayers predicted they’d be.

So Kylie is not only disapproving of Stacy’s profession, but Kylie benefits from this by living in a nicer apartment and from not being forced to return as a penniless failure. Further, her sister’s stripping is basically subsidizing Kylie’s pursuit as a yoga instructor. We get further judgment down the road when Stacy is the slut sister and Kylie is a virgin.

BIZpRUpCYAAv_zd.jpg-large

And yes, I plan to use this image every time I encounter a virgin in a contemporary. Worse, Stacy is not only a stripper and a slut, be she also is mean to her co workers where as Kylie is nice. I get it. Strippers are the devil’s spawn.

Trevor McCade is a detective working undercover at Deuces to try to ferret out the murderer of two patrons who have been beaten to death. Trevor has to manfully endure strip shows and lap dances in the course of his undercover investigation, all on the LAPD dime. He knows he is not supposed to be attracted to any of the strippers but he can’t help it. The scenes wherein Kylie dances for Trevor are very hot and the best part of the book. In those scenes we are treated to Kylie and Trevor feeling a multitude of emotions from power on Kylie’s part to frustration and guilt on Trevor’s part. They are also funny and hot at the same time:

“Very limber.”
“Glad you’re enjoying the show, Trevor.”
“Absolutely. In fact, you need to lift up a little or… ah…”
Too late. She felt some of the “incidental contact” Stacy had warned of, and jerked away, almost losing
her balance in the process.

Unfortunately we can’t have an entire book of private lap dances. (I say that totally unironically) The investigation intrudes and we have Kylie pretending to be Stacy and answering questions of the LAPD. We have Kylie and Trevor making out in the LAPD witness interview room. We have Kylie acting so stupidly toward the end which results in bad results all around.

There is a secondary romance between Stacy and Ian, Trevor’s partner. The story is told only from Kylie and Trevor’s point of view so we are treated to Kylie listening to the two have sex or Stacy recounting events. The secondary romance didn’t seem to smoothly fit into the narrative nor did Stacy and Kylie’s abrupt reconciliation toward the end where they acknowledged their envy of the other.

Finally, I think you need to review the diagram explaining where the hymen is.

Spoiler: Show

“Don’t worry. I’ve got you.” And he did. One hand resting on her thigh, the other wrapped around the
base of his erection, he ran the tip over her throbbing sex, and then pushed gently into her.

….

At the same time, he angled deep and drove into her.
For one suspended moment, their eyes met. His lips moved and she heard his rough, shocked, “Jesus,
Stacy.”

So what to grade this book? I gave it a C. There were some really good parts and some really bad parts.

Best regards,

Jane

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