"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
So, now I know why Rainbow Rowell is such a big deal.
This book wasn't perfect, but it still deserved five stars, because it accomplished something very few books do for me, with my decades-long "TBR" pile:
I did not want it to end. I felt a sense of sadness rather than accomplishment as I progressed through the discs in my car.
Why did I not want it to end? Well, there's that saying that we read to feel less alone, and this was one of those books I could see so much of myself in it was scary. Rowell got it SO RIGHT when it comes to the desire to escape into a created world rather than live in your own, or how it feels when those little cracks begin to form in a relationship you thought was unbreakable, or how strange and awkward it is to fall in love but not know what the heck to do with those feelings -- and how wonderful it is when you meet someone who is patient while you figure it out. All in all, this book felt like the most *real* thing I've read in ages: vivid characters, believable interactions, neither too bleak nor too saccharine, and overall, just very "balanced," especially when dealing with the issue of living in fantasy vs. living in reality. I like that Rowell didn't come down hard on either side; I trust that Cath will find her own way.
In some ways it feels unfair to give a book five stars just because I so deeply related to it, but at the same time, it's only when you deeply relate to something that you can fully appreciate when the author is spot on. Like Doll Bones, this is a book wherein I see myself not in a generic or symbolic way, but in a way where there's an actual match-up of experiences and the accompanying emotions. A few of the similarities between my life and Cath's:
1. I also wrote fan-fiction right up until college, had a wide following within my fandom, and encountered writing teachers who were dismissive of it.
2. I spent most of my college years hiding out in my dorm room and freaked out by the whole party/dating/drinking scene.
3. My roommate became my best friend (Reagen was awesome, but my Katrina is even awesomer).
4. I also had an intensely close relationship with a sister, which was largely predicated on a shared imaginary world, which she was ready to leave behind before I was (although we were both better off for moving on).
5. The man who stole my heart was not who I would have imagined for myself, and resembled Levi in several ways, including preferring audiobooks to reading, being happy to chat up everyone he encounters, being crazy patient and open-hearted, and managing to be incredibly sexy despite a somewhat prematurely receding hairline.
This is one of the few YA romances that I was able to truly "get behind" because it felt so real. I loved that Levi was not described in ways typical to the genre, that his imperfections somehow managed to make him more perfect, and that I could actually *believe* in him because I love someone who is cut from a similar cloth.
OK, so, a few of my quibbles included:
1. I felt that the ending was a little too abrupt, and there was one plot point that really felt like it should have been resolved.
2. I could have done without someone of the extra-long fan-fic passages, although I liked the short passages that were sprinkled throughout to convey the way that the Simon Snow universe permeated Cath's own.
3. There was WAY TOO MUCH eye-rolling in this book -- I wonder if Rainbow Rowell realizes that's a harbinger of broken relationships? If Levi and Cath get married, I hope she stops rolling her eyes of they'll be over 90% likely to divorce.
4. The resolution between Cath and Wren felt a little too quick and tidy, which was disappointing after the level of nuance their relationship exhibited up until that point.
Oh, and did I mention that Rowell "gets" mental illness, too? Brilliant. I am so glad this book exists.
Cue end of gushy review.