“Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university and Wren’s decided she doesn’t want to be one half of a pair anymore – she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It’s not so easy for Cath. She’s horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a romance far more intense than anything she’s experienced in real life.
Now Cath has to decide whether she’s ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she’s learning that there’s more to learn about love than she ever thought possible . . .”
I resisted the hype surrounding this book up for a long time – if I’m honest, the blurb (at the bottom of this post) made it sound slightly childish, and as much of a fangirl, and therefore someone who could connect to the protagonist, as I am, I couldn’t bring myself to read it. Then a friend (who studies Philosophy and actually knows what she’s talking about when it comes to books) told me to read it. I’d gone on a trip and, like a genius, forgotten to bring anything to read, so on riffling through shelves of a pretty Waterstones in London, I decided to give it a try. It was a good call.
Not only is the protagonist ridiculously relatable and a lot more endearing and complex than the blurb suggests – the subjects of moving to university, homesickness, anxiety and loneliness caught me by surprise – but the storyline is an absolute must for anyone who is even just an obsessive fan of one book, show, movie or band, for every single person on Tumblr, who feels like the biggest loser in the world if they’d rather go to the midnight showing of a new movie than go out.
I think the way Rowell intersperses the storyline with extracts from both the fictitious Simon Snow book series and the fanfiction created by the protagonist, Cath, is inventive and an extra special treat for fans of that sort of genre, in a book which is not actually fantasy, sci-fi or futuristic.
I felt the actual Simon Snow stories could not possibly be comparable to what is presumably their real-life counterpart the Harry Potter series, as the Snow stories were fairly bland in comparison to J. K. Rowling’s creation (one of the characters actually mentions the Harry Potter series at one point, which doesn’t make much sense, as if Snow is a parallel for Potter in this universe, they wouldn’t have heard of it, and if both coexist, I can’t imagine any Potterhead particularly enjoying the hocus-pocus-style magic of Snow).
However, regardless of that, the characters in this coming-of-age story and engaging, realistic and charming – Cath and Wren’s dad actually made me laugh aloud, which doesn’t often happen with books – and having struggled to find many books that I got properly hooked on in the last year, I remembered how addictive books can be once I picked this up – perfect for reading on the tube, as I discovered.
I’m a bit obsessive about the aesthetics of books, and this one does not disappoint. The cover design is gorgeous, with a really appealing finish, and the illustrations which feature on the front, back and inside covers, do not make this book seem childish, as they could have done, but actually nods to the modern fandom world of Tumblr and Pinterest, where fans often create cartoons and drawings of their favourite characters.
I was desperate for more as soon as I finished this book, which for me is usually a good sign, and I was really sad when I finished it.
Give this a go if you liked/if you liked this read:
Any franchise – Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Game of Thrones – you will definitely be able to relate to the characters