By Rainbow Rowell
(St. Martin’s Griffin, Hardcover, 9781250030955, September 2013, 448pp.)
The Short of It:
Oddly captivating and yet, slightly disappointing.
The Rest of It:
After loving Eleanor & Park, I HAD to get my hands on another Rowell book and this one just happened to be available from the library.
First off, it’s not Eleanor & Park. Sigh.
Cath and her twin sister Wren, head off to the University of Nebraska. It’s their first semester and they’ve chosen to live apart so they can meet new people and experience new things. This is more Wren’s idea, than Cath’s but Cath has little choice in the matter so she reluctantly goes along with it. The timing is not perfect. Their mother left them long ago, but Cath isn’t sure that they should both be leaving their father at the same time. What will their dad do? How will he get along without them? As it turns out, not all that well.
As Wren surrounds herself with the party scene, Cath has a hard time fitting in. She chooses to stay in when she can, eats more than her share of trail bars and spends nearly every waking moment thinking about the fan fiction she writes based on the Simon Snow novels that she loves. When she falls for her roommate’s ex-boyfriend Levi, her life gets complicated.
As captivating as these characters were, I did not love this one. Too much of the novel was dedicated to Simon Snow. I get that Cath is obsessed with Snow but these parts were my least favorite. I could not get into Snow’s world so every time he came up, I almost immediately tuned out.
Aside from the Snow stuff, I felt that Cath’s pain over losing her mother at such a young age was enough to carry me through. Cath and Wren are both so damaged by the event, but when Wren admits to being in contact with her mother, Cath just can’t believe what she’s hearing. The woman left them at the age of ten. How could Wren welcome her back with open arms? This is really the crux of everything that is wrong with Cath. Her lack of self-esteem, her inability to open up to anyone… all because of her mother’s rejection. It’s heartbreaking.
However, by the end of the story, the characters haven’t grown enough for me to feel that all is well. Perspective has changed and some maturity has taken place, but I never got the feeling that everything that could have been explored, was. This left me a little unsatisfied.
That said, Rowell accurately captures what a first semester away from home feels like and really, that is why I read her. She seems to have a real knack for conveying awkwardness and that is no exception here.
Have you read this one? What did you think of it?
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.