Cather is the world's biggest Simon Snow (a thinly veiled Harry Potter reference) fan, and she's just starting college. She and her twin sister, Wren, used to be involved in the fandom together. With the beginning of their college career, however, Wren is trying to distance herself from Simon Snow, and from Cather. Cather just wants everything to stay the way it used to be, but Wren's ready to grow up and start partying. Cather starts off miserable in her college career- she's painfully shy, and constantly worried about her bipolar father, whose mania often has him working himself to the point of exhaustion. She avoids socializing by focusing on her Simon Snow fanficton, and this ends up damaging both her social and academic lives, especially with a creative writing professor who's staunchly against what she considers plagiarism. Slowly, however, Cath is pulled out of her isolation by Reagan, her roommate, and Nick, her writing partner in her creative writing class. She's also forced to contend with Levi, Reagan's boyfriend, who's friendliness simply won't allow him to let Cather withdraw from the world. But everything's complicated when Cather finds out Wren has been in contact with their mother- who abandoned them when they were little. Meanwhile, Cather's trying to deal with her father's illness and her own relationship issues, and Wren is too wrapped up in her new life to help her sister. Cather ends up withdrawing even further into her fandom, but hopefully she can adjust to college life with the help of her new friends.
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Best part of story, including ending:
The story is complicated- there isn't really a sense of rising or falling action, and there are a few points that could possibly count as a climax, but no specific point where everything turns around. Your mileage may vary on how effective this is, but I think it works in terms of the slice of life storyline. Life doesn't have rising and falling action, after all. It all reads fairly realistically, and the characters are all interesting enough to hint at having their own stories and motivations beyond what Cath gets up to. There are several excerpts from Cath's own fanfiction, and I was afraid that this would get annoying, but it really doesn't distract much from the story, and is a lot more interesting than I expected it to be. I do think that the ending sort of tried to wrap everything up too neatly- it resolved a lot of the more physical issues, and it sort of presented Cath as having been in the right all along, without addressing how her own antisocial behavior had hurt others. Even so, otherwise the book adds up to a really heartfelt and accurate look at someone's first year of college, and I'm sure it will resonate with anyone who had trouble adjusting their freshman year.
Best scene in story:
There's a scene where Wren and Cather are arguing about whether they should start talking to their mom, and the way they talk to each other is very accurate to actual sibling dynamics. They both know exactly how to push the other's buttons, but even though they say some pretty cruel things to each other, it's obvious that it comes out of concern and love rather than actually wanting to hurt each other. It's just really accurate to how real life arguments tend to go.
Opinion about the main character:
Cath is a fairly accurate representation of a nerd girl- and her antisocial nature is presented as being somewhat debilitating rather than just the sort of cutesy awkwardness that's usually found in YA fiction. That being said, this lack of social skills can get frustrating at times for the reader. There's a part, for instance, where she turns in a piece of fan fiction for a creative writing project, and the reader just has to wonder who would ever think that that was a good idea? Even so, the reader desperately wants her to be happy, and it's easy to associate with her. Overall, she's easy enough to read about, and even if she isn't the best female character ever written, you do like her and want her to succeed.