Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction
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?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
There’s something about Fangirl that knocks you for a six and yet feels achingly familiar at the same time. It’s as warm as a well-worn scarf yet as sharp and piercing as a pair of six-inch stilettos. There’s so much honesty and truth in the writing, it’s impossible to look away. It feels like an old favourite from the second you turn the first page and it’s hands down one of the most original books I’ve read all year. 

Twins Cather and Wren have always been inseparable. Cather always believed they’d have each other’s backs no matter what, but the moment Wren tells her she doesn’t want them to be roommates in college, that dream shatters. Wren is surging toward independence; she doesn’t want to be known as a novelty twin or be mistaken for her sister anymore. She wants hot guys, wild parties, friends and interests of her own. Wren is leaving Cath behind.

Cather – alias Magicath, nickname Cath – isn’t outgoing or brave like Wren, but she is a wonderful protagonist. Even if you don’t like her right away, you won’t want to say goodbye to her by the end of the book. She’s dedicated, naïve, kind-hearted, flawed. She represents the best thing about the characters in Fangirl: they feel like real people whether you want them to or not, including spiky, forceful Reagan and slimy, despicable Nick. 

My favourite character by far, however, was Levi. He’s unadulterated on-tap sunshine. He brightens up every page, and in a world where brooding bad boys with supernatural powers, violet eyes and a chronic need to be ‘saved’ rule the roost, he’s a breath of fresh air. He’s supportive, hard-working  and has a deliciously mischievous sense of humour. He makes mistakes, but he tries to makes up for them and he always has a smile to spare.  His romance with Cath felt so natural; it’s a slow-burn, eventful and satisfying. I fell for Levi hook line and sinker - and want to see more guys like him in YA. 

Fangirl is a contemporary novel, so there are themes like the break up of family, mental health issues, overcoming fears and realizing that not all problems are meant to be solved, but it is, of course, also about fandom - and it’s brilliant. As Rowell taps into the previously unexplored importance of fandom throughout Fangirl, it’s apparent that it’s a trend-setting move that will appeal to readers everywhere. Cath writes fan-fiction for a book series about a young British wizard named Simon Snow (yes, it’s based on Harry Potter, though weirdly Harry Potter also seems to exist in Fangirl’s universe, and yes, it also walks that thin line between homage and blatant plagiarism more often than not). As the publication date for the final Simon Snow book looms near, Cath is also close to completing her Simon Snow fan-fiction epic, rather appropriately titled ‘Carry On, Simon’. In Cath’s version of the story, Harry – sorry, I mean Simon – and Draco – sorry, I mean, some guy called Baz – are more than just mortal enemies; they’re in love. Excerpts from both Cath’s fan-fiction and the Simon Snow series are littered throughout Fangirl but even they’re eclipsed by the sheer simple brilliance of Rowell’s decision to have fandom at the centre of her novel. It’s a trend setting move that begs the question “Why did no one ever think to do this in YA before?!”

Of course, with great hype comes great responsibility. Ther are downsides to the book – it’s not suitable for younger readers as it’s set during Cather and Wren’s first year of college, the Simon Snow excerpts occasionally feel as if they’re getting in the way of the real story, and perhaps worst of all, you may be reminded of the word ‘catheter’ every time you read Cather’s full name – but I’d still highly recommend it. It’s a story worth investing in: you won’t regret reading it, and I can guarantee you’ll be throwing Emergency Dance Parties of joy when you have. 

In short: Fangirl is a page-turning, trend-setting and near-perfect novel. It’s an engaging and stylish tale of friendship, sisterhood, first love, new experiences and fandom which pours irresistibly off the page. The storytelling is exceptional and the romance is wonderful; it’s fresh, feel-good and punctuated by honesty. Magnificent. 

Arianne x 


Review: 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma

Title: 17 & Gone
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Genres: YA, Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller
Seventeen-year-old Lauren is having visions of girls who have gone missing. And all these girls have just one thing in common—they are 17 and gone without a trace. As Lauren struggles to shake these waking nightmares, impossible questions demand urgent answers: Why are the girls speaking to Lauren? How can she help them? And… is she next? As Lauren searches for clues, everything begins to unravel, and when a brush with death lands her in the hospital, a shocking truth emerges, changing everything.

With complexity and richness, Nova Ren Suma serves up a beautiful, visual, fresh interpretation of what it means to be lost.

We all see the stories on the news now and then about young girls that have gone missing, ones that ran away or were taken somewhere unimaginable. And over time, the young female runaway has become yet another cliché to avoid.

Yet, author Nova Ren Suma resurrects this cliché by transforming it and placing it at the center of her brilliantly written and captivating thriller 17 & Gone. Rather than the than a novel about a teenage girl who physically goes missing into the night, this novel is about a girl who goes missing into her own thoughts and dreams when she begins having visions of girls who have run away or otherwise gone missing from home.

17 & Gone is the story of Lauren, a teenager living in New York state who starts seeing what she believes are the ghosts of girls that have gone missing in her area. An eerie occurrence that started with one girl begins to balloon out of control, forcing Lauren to collapse into herself and neglect the person she was before the girls.

The first missing girl that appears to Lauren is Abigail Sinclair, who starts as a face on a missing person poster on a telephone pole but becomes an obsession. Lauren is positive Abigail did not run away like everyone else seems to think after a series of odd visions from the night Abigail disappeared. As she digs for the truth, more girls start appearing, each with their own harrowing story to tell.

The resulting novel is one not only about Lauren and her journey or about the missing girls, but a story that walks several fine lines: the line between life and death, the line between sanity and insanity, the line between missing and present. 17 & Gone is as much a story about the different tragedies girls face in their adolescence as it is about the dark secret behind Lauren’s own struggle, a secret that will stun the reader.

The beautifully lyrical and descriptive writing style of the novel is instrumental in shaping Lauren’s voice, which readers will find bold, honest and mildly eerie. Her character seems to come to life off the page, leaving readers hooked in anticipation of what happens next.

One of the few faults in this novel is that, while Lauren herself is a fascinating, flawed and complex character, the intriguing and emotional stories of the missing girls she has visions of take control of the stories at times. And while this could be symbolic or a plot device, it takes a bit away from the poignancy of Lauren’s own inner struggles.

Another minor weakness is the use of time in the novel. While most of the novel takes place over a single winter, Lauren’s growing addiction to these girls’ stories feels drawn out at times. There is also a jump in time in the novel, which is necessary for the plot, but flowed more like an afterthought than a seamless addition to the story.

The plot, however, is masterfully constructed and Lauren tells the story in a way that is equally reflective, immediate and suspenseful. Recalling her story in the recent past, Lauren drops hints of what’s to come along the way, things she realizes that she didn’t before. What results is a story that is in itself a girl learning how to recount her own while also remember the stories of others.

Overall, 17 & Gone is a jarringly eerie tale about the lives of missing girls and the one girl who seems to understand their stories. Suma’s daring novel will keep readers up all night and is so suspenseful that they will be gripping the book with white knuckles, relieved and disappointed when they come to its end.

Have you read 17 & Gone? Did you enjoy it? Let us know in the comments below!


Books I've Been Told I MUST Read

"Top Ten Tuesday" is a meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. Every week a new topic is selected in advance and participating bloggers must make a list in regards to the topic!

This weeks Top Ten Tuesday isn't really a top ten anything. I've only been able to come up with seven books! There may be others, but none that immediately come to mind. I wanted to only include books that I have seen recommended countless times and I want to read eventually. This eliminates plenty of books that, while they have rave reviews and are recommended a lot, I just am not interested in. These are books that trusted bloggers seem to really love, and I have the full intention of reading them eventually!

Everything Lead to You by Nina La Cour - I've heard nothing but good things about this book! The protagonist is a young lesbian who is passionate about set designing. At least that's what I've gathered from reviews. One of the aspects of the book that I look forward to the most is the protagonists passion about set designing. From what I've read in reviews it really jumps off the page and you can feel how passionate she is.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin - Does this one need any explanation? I adore the show! This book has been lauded time and again and I really need to get in on that. I don't know if I'd be actually that interested in reading it once I started though. I hate knowing what happens in books, I can't even look a page ahead for fear of spoilers that will ruin my enjoyment of the book. From the show I know so much! I know that the show doesn't show everything though. But, though I hate spoilers for books, I quite like them for TV shows! I've read everything I possibly can on wikipedia and other websites about the books so I know what to expect from the show.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord - The cover alone has me interested in this one! I've been interested in this book since I first heard of it. It sounds fun! But I just never got around to buying it and reading it. Then all of the reviews started coming in. I expected pretty good reviews, but from the sample of reviews I've read, this is apparently an amazing book! Apparently it took a lot of people by surprise and blew them away so hopefully it will do the same for me!

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson - I thought this one sounded good enough, but after seeing Nikki mention it a million times I know I have to get to it eventually.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch - This is another one that I see Nikki rave about constantly. Everytime she posts a tweet about it I get more excited to read it! But the book itself is quite chunky and a bit daunting. I'll make time in the near future to read it because the suspense is killing me. I need to know what's so great about it!

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski - This seems to be another one that took people by surprise. I still don't really expect it to be quite as good as everyone is raving about though, the hype machine has fooled me too many times for that. But I still love the concept and can't wait to get my hands on it!

Vicious by V. E. Schwab - Apparently when it comes to great books at the moment, Victoria is the one to look out for! I haven't read any of her books yet. When I first heard of Vicious it wasn't really something I was interested in. Even when people started to rave about it I wasn't that interested. But over time, twitter and other bloggers have managed to convince me that I really need to give this one a shot.

Have you read any of the books on this list? Would you recommend them? What other books would you say I absolutely have to read?


Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that showcases eagerly awaited upcoming titles.

Seraphina took the literary world by storm with 8 starred reviews and numerous “Best of” lists. At last, her eagerly awaited sequel has arrived—and with it comes an epic battle between humans and dragons.

The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

Seraphina was one of my favourite reads of last year. It took me by surprise and completely blew me away with its plot and host of characters. I've already devoured the novella, The Audition, and can't wait to get my hands on the next instalment of this series. If you haven't managed to pick Seraphina up yet, then make sure to before Shadow Scales release. You absolutely have to read the novella too. The novella gave even greater insight into the characters and made me care for some of the characters even more that I had from the book itself!


Books I'm Not Sure I Still Want to Read

"Top Ten Tuesday" is a meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. Every week a new topic is selected in advance and participating bloggers must make a list in regards to the topic!

It was far too easy finding the following books for this weeks topic. I really have to wonder if I'll ever manage to read any of them! The books I chose are a mixture of books I own but have not yet read and books that I added to my Goodreads TBR with the hopes of reading them but I've just lost interest.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige - I wanted to read this one because I thought it sounded interesting enough. I've never been a huge Wizard of Oz fan but I still thought this could be an interesting read. Plus I really liked the simplicity of the cover! But then I found out it was a Full Fathom Five book. That immediately made me turn off the book. There's also the fact that it got quite negative reviews from some bloggers I trust. All of this makes me not want to read the book, but it still has the interesting concept which draws me back.

Eve by Anna Carey - I bought this book years ago when it first came out and immediately dove straight in. Straight away I got a turn off the writing and thought it was very simple. In the first few chapters everything just seems to go right for the protagonist when it shouldn't, if that makes any sense. But now that all of the books are out I'm thinking of possibly giving this book another chance.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin - I absolutely love the TV show and that's what has me interested in reading the books. If the TV show is that good, can you imagine how amazing the books must be?!? But it's a huge commitment to read such a long series with each book being a hefty read itself. I think for this one I may wait until the series has been finished. I know I have quite some time before that will happen, but I'm in no rush!
Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau - I read the first book and thought it was okay enough. Nothing earth shattering, but an okay-ish dystopian all round. But I've seen quite a few trusted bloggers who love the series. So I think I may give this one a go one of the days, though if I do, it won't be anytime soon!

The Secret Diamond Sisters by Michelle Madow - I ordered this one as soon as it came out. I was in the mood for this exact type of book at the time but by the time it arrived I just wasn't feeling it. I only managed to read a page or two, not because of the book itself but because I just wasn't in the mood for that genre. I hope I get back in the mood, but I just don't know if I will. The curse of the mood reader!

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi - I started this one after I saw how popular the series was with everyone waiting for the final book in the trilogy. But as soon as I started reading it, it just wasn't my cup of tea. I thought the writing was very pretentious and trying very hard to aim for prose. It just wasn't for me. But with the series being so popular, and a very famous chapter I'd love to read, I don't know whether to stick it out for a bit longer to see what all of the hype is.

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff - I was so excited to read this one! I thought it had an amazing concept and sounded so fun but then I found out it was steampunk, or at least had steampunk elements. I despise steampunk! There are very few genres I hate more. It just isn't a genre I enjoy reading, I really find it a struggle. But this book sounds so great! I'm really up in the air about whether to read this one or not!

Toxic Heart by Theo Lawrence - I read the first book in this series and this was another one that I thought was solidly okay-ish. There was nothing particularly great about it but I hope the next book in the series will improve on it. However I don't know if I'l ever get to it, as I have far too many books I think will be amazing to spend time on a book that I don't have high expectations of.

Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts - The cover got me so excited for this one and I love a good apocalypse book. But then bad reviews started appearing around the blogosphere and it really turned me off the book. I read a few pages but then gave up. Looking back I think it was the reviews that turned me oof more than the actual few pages I read. 

Have you read any of the books I mentioned? Do you think I should read them immediately or give them a miss?