book cover for fangirl by rainbow rowell

Book Report: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Last week, we revived our Book Reports with Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller. We got some great feedback from you guys, and really, really enjoy diving into these discussions. Estelle was trying to decide what she should read next and we discussed how great it would be to do a Fangirl Book Report. Magan had already read it and despite doing a joint review recently, really wanted to discuss the details a little more with Estelle. So here you have it, friends! Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell…

book cover for fangirl by rainbow rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (website | twitter)
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 433
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: college, fanfiction, twin sisters, empty nesting, separation anxiety
Other Books Reviewed by This Author: Eleanor and Park
Format read: ARCs from the publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Twin sisters Cath and Wren have moved away to college to begin their freshman years. While Wren is diving into the college life, Cath is despising the change and scared of moving forward. She clings onto her fanfiction writing and is begrudgingly taken under her roommate, Reagan’s, wing.

Just in case you need a reminder of who is who below, here ya go:

Magan

Estelle

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I don’t even know how to start! There were a bazillion and a half things I loved about Fangirl.

 

Clearly, we don’t have time to mention them all. How about top 3? (I’m hilarious.)

 

Hahahah — I loved the New Adult feel – the fear of experiencing college and moving forward because life as you know it is awesome. The relationship aspect – friendships and otherwise – were so well developed, and I think there was a lovely depiction of what it’s like to be in a relationship, but to be afraid of getting too attached to someone and all the physical pressure that comes along with relationships. What about you? What were standout aspects for you?

Great points! I totally agree with those, and have to add the escapism factor. I could totally relate to Cath and her affection for something people may not understand. (I guess when you have a Disney blog you understand these things on a “deeper” level.) But she was so consumed by the world she had created for her characters and for herself that she was forgetting there was a whole outside world to experience. Or maybe just didn’t know how to take that next step and let go of what anchored her. Oh and maybe also finding this balance between your passions and also LIVING. I know a lot of us have those moments where we are so into what’s happening on twitter or in the book world, or just in the world of books, and it can be very isolating.

You hit on two major, major points here. Cath, the main character, had so much going on in her life. Her dad seemed to be suffering from separation anxiety (and more) after Cath and Wren left for college. Wren was trying to create her own identity, separate of Cath, and that left Cath feeling very lost and confused. Her fantiction was the only stable element of her life. She was a brilliant writer, people depended on her, and it was a positive amongst a lot of heavier “real life” issues. I connected so much to the “fear to move on” side of Cath. Each time in my life I’ve had to make big decisions – going to college, moving, etc. – I have become so emotional and had trouble accepting the new.

Same here. I felt forced to relive some of the more difficult moments of my freshman year of college when I was reading Fangirl. I really wanted to transfer, feared I would never feel comfortable there, and definitely spent too much time wrapped up in other things than attempting to make a place for myself in this new life. I have to say this though. For all the heavy moments and the scary changes, there is so much humor in Fangirl. It takes a ton for me to LOL but I was definitely doing that on more than one occasion during my reading. It surprised me! I don’t remember having that kind of reaction in Attachments or Eleanor and Park. Cath’s thoughts are so amusing and so things that I would think.

I agree. And her interactions with her roommate Reagan? My gosh, I loved Reagan. She was so honest and authentic. There’s the scene where Reagan finally takes Cath under her wing and forces her to go to the cafeteria? I was dying.

Same here. I wish everyone had a Reagan!

 

Me too. And via Reagan, we meet Levi!

 

Oh Levi. What a great character. I could picture him SO well.

 

I think from what I’ve seen around the blogosphere and twitter, everyone is swooning pretty hardcore over Levi. You’ve now read all of Rainbow’s books. Would you say he’s your favorite of her male characters?

That’s so tough. I really really enjoyed Lincoln in Attachments. His plight was so unique to any fiction I’ve written (a sort of momma’s boy trying to move forward from a love he can’t forget) so I’d have to say it’s a very close tie when it comes to Lincoln and Levi. What about you? I know how much you loved Park.

I did really love Park. But I also loved Levi. Levi in many, many ways reminded me of my husband, Dustyn. The way he wouldn’t enter Cath and Reagan’s dorm room even though he had a key… or the way he would randomly bring a coffee by… how he smiled at everyone. He was kind and so thoughtful. Probably the most respectful male character I’ve read about in a long, long time. Needless to say, it’s a toss up. I think because I met Dustyn when he was about Levi’s age, something kind of pulled me to him.

I could see that. Honestly, Levi was probably a guy that I would not have liked in college because I didn’t really like NICE boys. (Bad Estelle!) And I don’t really think he is like James at all. (HA) But, I do think he is the kind of guy that girls tend to pass over because he is too nice. Like, he always ends up being the friend? So it was interesting to see how this played out. I also liked how the “romance” was never the main part of this book. Rainbow did a great job of juggling a lot of different story lines and making it feel like all the events were happening pretty organically.

It’s really true. There’s one aspect that pulled me out of the story a little bit though: the inclusion of Cath’s fanfiction and excerpts of the original story she was manipulating. How did you feel about this? (Can I just say it pains me to critique anything about Rainbow’s writing?)

It wasn’t too jarring to me but I felt myself really wondering how the fanfic situation was mirroring real life or if it was supposed to be? I also (I hate to say this) kept getting a little confused by the characters in the fanfic and almost wish there was more included if it was going to be there at all. So maybe it was more jarring than I thought but I think (and I know you agree) we are so invested in Cath and her life and just want to find out what happens. Oh, now that I’m thinking about this. Maybe it was purposeful. Cath is going through life and keeps interrupting her own growth with the fan fic? Or is that reaching?

I really think you could be right, but I think the confusion for me was that it took me a bit to catch on to who was writing which part. I also didn’t get a sense of the timeline the fanfic followed or if it was supposed to be eluding to what happened in Cath’s life as well. Essentially, I thought about it too much when all I really wanted to be thinking with was how Cath was dealing and what was going to happen next.

I understand. I felt the same way. I tried to savor it all though and trudge through the fan fic as best I could. (I stayed up until 2am reading this on Friday night. I did not want to take a break at all!)

Hahah – I’m sure James loved being ignored for Cath and Levi.

 

It’s okay. He had video games to keep him company :) But let’s chat about Wren.

 

Oh, man. The twin sister.

 

I was so intrigued by their relationship, and I love a good sister story. I felt like I spent most of the book being really angry at Wren.

Oh, girl! ME TOO. She seemed so selfish and angsty. However, Wren’s storyline showed me a completely different side of Cath. I saw Cath as someone who wasn’t so skittish and scared. She became a stronger woman to me through all of these interactions with Wren and their father. I began to see a tender, compassionate, STRONG side of her.

It’s true. I understood that both girls really need to steer their own paths. That took a lot of courage when they were so used to being together and sharing each other’s lives. But it was almost too extreme and I wanted to shake Wren just to talk to her sister! How could she just… let her sit in her room. Even though Cath didn’t like to party it up, Wren could have been encouraging and available to her sister. It felt like they were strangers.

It really did. Wren’s actions almost made it unbelievable that at some point she was into the fanfiction too. She became such a different girl than who I think Cath grew up with.

Another totally realistic portrayal of the choices people can make when they go to college.

 

Gosh, yeah. College is like this huge opportunity to essentially reinvent yourself. Cath wasn’t sure she wanted to do that. She liked her life as it was. Meanwhile, Wren was fleeing. She wanted the exact opposite. I can’t pinpoint any specific examples of this happening to me in college, but I can imagine how difficult it would be to make it through that kind of behavioral change.

Especially when you are going to school with a built-in friend. Or so you think.

 

I know you and I have both had adult friendships go awry under circumstances we just didn’t understand. I think that was one of my favorite aspects of Fangirl. Even though they were still younger than we are, I really, really connected to their circumstances even more so than I normally do with Young Adult books. It felt so refreshing.

I totally agree with that. Even Cath’s investment in her dad’s health and how she was so dedicated to keeping up with him. Parents are usually the ones begging for their kids to call them, and here she was kind of taking on this burden to make sure he stays afloat.

I finished the book and texted you “This is what NA should feel like.” NA isn’t a specific category yet and I don’t know that Fangirl is being loosely classified as such, but it felt like this was such a gaping hole in what I’ve read after I finished it. I need more books to make me feel the way Fangirl did. I need more NA books to not focus so much on people with huge sexual agendas. I’ve mostly stayed away from books marketed as such because they’ve all felt the same.

That is an amazing point. I want to read a book that I relate to and characters with intense baggage and this insatiable sexual hunger and tension… that was just not my life and it’s not going to be my life. Cath and Wren had real problems, real joys, and real growth. Their story could easily be someone I knew in college, or a friend of a friend.

Rainbow does a phenomenal job of making her stories so believable by including family, background stories, friendships, relationships. Their dad’s story, as you mentioned, was such an interesting one to me. I don’t believe I’ve read about someone before who was quite like him. I was so intrigued by him, but also cautious. I never knew quite what to expect.

Same here. I could tell he really cared for them but something was off? It was a strong point of the story for me, and I almost missed him a bit at the end. Again, I think his absence was on purpose because of well… I’m not saying what… but he seemed like a great guy.

Is there something we haven’t touched on that  you’d like to mention? I just read through all of my notes again and I just feel so happy re-living this story with you.

I think all I can say is: BUY THIS NOW. The re-readability level is so high… I am anxious to get this book on my shelf.

 

I couldn’t agree more. I have a really hard time with re-reading because I feel like there are so many new books to experience, but I just NEED to own this one. And honestly? How gorgeous are all of her covers?

The cover is wonderful and so creative. I feel like it fits the book perfectly.

 

It really does. I just looked at how Cath and Levi were positioned on the cover and it made me smile, thinking about them in her dorm room. It’s so accurate. Aside from BUY NOW, any final words about Fangirl?

Ah. You just made me think of something. My final words are going to be about how accurately Rainbow described the writing classes in this book. I was a writing major and these were some of my most challenging classes but also the most personal to me. I could relate to how hard Cath had to work, her attraction to other good writers/thinkers in her class, and I was so so so angry at a certain character in this book for certain actions that I may never be over it. (You will know what I’m talking about once you read it, everyone.) But Rainbow really inspired me to think about writing and why we do it and why it’s so important. So I just wanted to say thanks for that. I haven’t felt that way since The Princesses of Iowa. I felt really empowered by Cath’s passions, for sure, and hope this nudges me to move forward a little bit with my own.

I love that. I loved those writing classes in a completely different way. I kind of gave up on writing because I had a professor tell me that I didn’t need to major in it because “writing was something I could do via any profession” and “there were too many English majors out there looking for jobs.” I am happy I pushed myself to study something different, but I also felt a little bit sad. I felt like I wanted the professor Cath had who saw something in her and helped her fine-tune her talent and even pushed her to embrace it. I felt like that was a missed opportunity for me.

That teacher was amazing. I loved how she went to-bat for her. A teacher like that could make all the difference.

 

Me too. How absolutely everything there played out was so fantastic. And even in some of the most subtle ways. That wasn’t a huge, huge storyline, but I always kept wondering what Cath was up to and how she was handling her English class.

Same here.

 

You somewhat mentioned this earlier, but I want to bring it back to focus again. So many times I thought about how Cath living in her fanfiction world was so understandable for me because I feel like being a blogger takes as much investment and effort as she was putting forth. Her fanfiction wasn’t something she could sell and this blog isn’t something we make money off of, but it’s something that defines a very large part of who you and I are. I just kept coming back, over and over, to the point that there needs to be a balance between living in the real world and not allowing this to take over our lives. I think it’s really easy to want huge blog hits, lots of twitter followers, etc., but ultimately, those are just things. My friendship with you is so much more than all of those things.

I totally agree with that. Ah the internet would can be so complicated and so wonderful but you do really have to learn your limits. Something I think Rainbow nailed is how everyone on the internet has this other part of them we just don’t know about. No one knew why Cath was busy and not writing, and no one know what was going on when she was going on writing benders either. This is also a theme (sort of) in This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales too — another fantastic contemporary. Sort of these secret worlds our characters go to, where they feel so powerful. Even when in their real lives they are bumbling.

I would say that’s true for me too, even though I wish I could say it’s not. I think there are certain areas of our lives we protect and keep hidden because we’re just not sure how to share them. Or we assume people won’t understand. Cath expected to be ridiculed for her fanfiction by the people she told. (Sometimes I was a little amazed by her forthrightness at sharing considering the reaction she anticipated.) I think it almost goes beyond developing a persona and becomes more about becoming wholeheartedly comfortable with who we are and not caring how people will react in return.

Exactly. I think that is the perfect note to end on tonight.

 

Well, there you have it, folks. We broke down just about every aspect we could think of for Fangirl (in the least spoilery ways possible). Our sincere hope is that you’ll take a chance on Cath and let us know what takeaways you experience.

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Estelle: Anatomy of a Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky

Anatomy of a Single Girl by Daria SnadowskyAnatomy of a Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky ( website | tweet )
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 240
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: summer break from college, med school, sex, relationships
Format read: ARC from NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: Dom, a pre-med major, is home for summer break and hoping to spend some time with her best friend, Amy, and her supportive parents. She’s also still trying to get over high school boyfriend, and survive the longest period of time she’s been home since they broke up. Will she spend the summer wallowing or will she find someone or something to distract her?

I was not expecting Anatomy of a Single Girl, the first book I’ve started and finished this year, to be more than a fluffy, fun read. Nothing wrong with that. But lemme tell you, it shocked me. Shocked me because it was so much smarter than that, shocked me so much because I was blushing like a maniac because it was overflowing with sex. And not only the kind you have with a hot guy, trying to get your first O (oh that’s in there too) but um, the self-pleasing kind as well.

See? I’m all nervous just typing that!

I am all for girl power: ladies like Carrie Bradshaw and Jessica Darling, who know how they feel and what they want. Not only in their personal lives but for their professional ones too. Main character Dom is a science geek, friends! A science geek who is also still cool, pretty, likes her parents, and has a great relationship with her best friend, Amy. Dom wants to be a doctor, and has been memorizing Gray’s Anatomy since she was in high school.

Now she’s on break from college, after working her ass off, and she needs some relief from those finals. RELIEF. If you remember or if you are experiencing it now, summers home are tough. Friends can change, your parents might seem a little boring, and, man oh man, that freedom you so loved at school may not come as easily. Snadowsky has this down including the super supportive parents who are always begging for more time with their kid.

And where’s Dom? Volunteering at the hospital, and hanging out with Guy, who loves science as much as she does. I love this girl so much because she is SO herself, whether it’s geeking out or thinking so black and white about relationships. Most of us has been there: what’s the point of dating for fun or having a fling if there’s no future? (Okay, so I used to have this mindset so I get it.) Like me, Dom has a problem just LETTING GO + it seems the mission of the summer is all wrapped in that.

In the meantime, her bestie, Amy, is in a committed relationship but dares to flirt and be forward with the boys anyway. I liked this parallel a lot. Amy and Dom have this cool friendship you could only hope for. College can change the dynamics between friends so much, and they manage to fall back into old times as soon as they see each other — even when there are some growing pains to deal with. You can tell they also keep great touch despite going to different colleges, miles and miles away from each other.

You know, I had absolutely no idea that Snadowsky had written a previous book about Dom. But the snappy, honest writing (even with Dom’s long-winded and technical thought process) never made me feel like I was missing anything or getting an intense recap from book 1. I love when authors write a series but each book can also be seen as a standalone. In fact, since finishing Single Girl, I’ve read Anatomy of a Boyfriend and I felt majorly grateful to read another book that was so open about sexuality, virginity, and the dreaded leaving high school for college process.

Snadowsky knows how to write women — strong, flawed women who are open to discovering their bodies and what makes them feel good. (Whether it’s science or sex.)

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book cover for Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Magan: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

book cover for Just One Day by Gayle FormanJust One Day (Just One Day #1) by Gayle Forman
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pages: 368
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Paris, College, Life Experiences, Falling in Love
Format read: ARC borrowed from Anna at Anna Reads (Thanks, lady!)

Summary: Allyson is on “the trip of a lifetime” in Europe with her best friend, Melanie, after their high school graduation; after following all the rules throughout the trip, Allyson decides to be spontaneous and go to Paris for one day with Willem, an actor she meets in a Shakespeare play.

Tomorrow is a day all book readers need to rejoice, rush to the closest bookstore, purchase a copy of Just One Day, and read it in its entirety. I am not kidding, not in the least. This book is probably one of my very favorite books I’ve read … ever.

Forman took me by complete surprise with her previous books, If I Stay and Where She Went. There are moments I still reflect on scenes from those books and find myself daydreaming about the characters. It’s always a bit scary to read something new when an author leaves that kind of impression. Regardless, Jamie and Anna talked up Just One Day and graciously sent it my way.

Within the first few pages, the confused and very structured main character, Allyson, had struck a chord with me. Her life was controlled and micromanaged by overbearing parents who planned every second of her life. It’s not until the end of her tour in Europe that she realizes how little she’s explored because she was too afraid to do something not on the itinerary (meanwhile, her best friend, Melanie, has made new friends and semi-reinvented herself).

When the chance to go to Paris for a day with Willem (a boy she meets through a local production of a Shakespeare play) arises, she pushes her hesitations aside and chooses to be adventurous. Willem is funny, intelligent, good-looking, and has a wandering spirit that’s up for the challenge of showing Allyson the city. Allyson morphs into an alter-ego, Lulu, who is the bold and daring version of herself. The girl that’s brave and doesn’t need to have every moment pre-planned.

Forman’s writing is beautiful and perfect; her prose is spot on. Her descriptions are vivid — painting clear pictures of the places they went, the people they encountered, the sights they saw. Though I may have expected a “touristy” and overly romantic trek through Paris, what I received was so much more than that. Their stops felt very realistic and not overly idealized. I loved that I didn’t receive the postcard description of the city, but experienced two people discovering themselves in a foreign city in a very natural way. Nothing feels forced, cliched, or contrived.

Maybe you’re like me and you assumed that Just One Day would be mostly an epic love story. Forman’s themes are so strong, making me believe that her words could reach a vast audience.

+ JOD is about a pressured, sheltered girl with high demands being forced on her by her parents (Go to med school. Make something of yourself. Collect clocks. Wear these clothes.) and how she struggles to break free of the mold they’ve so tightly cast around her.

+ It’s about the separation and distance we face when we part from our childhood friends to chase new dreams. (How do you remain friends when it seems life is pulling you in two opposite directions?)

+ There’s the sense of change and wanting to chase after something new and different and acting on it, even though (or maybe especially because) everyone expects you to stay the same.

+ It’s about making friends as an adult and how different that can be than the judgmental ways of high school… and how our preconceived notions of someone can be so, so wrong.

There are no words to describe my love/adoration/infatuation for Just One Day. One day can change the course of your life. I wish I could purchase copies for every person on the planet because it has affected me that immensely.

I highly encourage you, friends, to go out tomorrow and purchase a copy of this book. Allow yourself to fall in love with Paris, to seek answers to all the questions surrounding Willem, and to grow and change with Allyson.

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book cover for easy by tammara webber

Magan: Easy by Tammara Webber

Easy by Tammara Webber
Publication Date: May 24, 2012
Pages: 304
Target audience: Mature Young Adult or New Adult
Keywords: rape, self-defense, break-ups, college, music major
Format read: Purchased for my Kindle.

Summary: After an unexpected break-up with her boyfriend, Jacqueline attends a frat party where her ex-boyfriend’s friend tried to rape her. She’s saved by Lucas who she repeatedly runs into on campus after the attack.

 

I’ve been a huge fan of Tammara Webber’s (revist my reviews of Where You Are and Good For You). I’ve really enjoyed her colorful characters, fun plot lines, and the need to devour her books. I felt her writing was only growing stronger; when reviews of Easy started popping up proclaiming its awesomeness, I knew I had to finally hunker down and read the book that had been sitting untouched on my kindle.

Maybe I allowed the hype to get to my head and I put Easy on a pedestal, positive it would be a home run. Maybe it just wasn’t the book for me.

I found that Jacqueline was a girl I just did not connect with. In the beginning, she’s attacked by a fraternity brother of her ex-boyfriend. He tries to take advantage of her and Lucas saves her. I imagine a sense of panic and feelings of nervousness moving forward with life after an event such as this. I didn’t feel the weight of this nearly as much as I would have liked to. I felt the focus was much more on finding out about Lucas, Jacqueline getting over her ex-boyfriend, her catching up on a class she neglected after her bad breakup, and the happenings of her roommate.

There were so many things I walked away from Easy knowing, but ultimately, I didn’t see a whole lot of Jacqueline in all of that. She’s a music major who tutors a lot during the week and supposedly spends lots of time practicing to perfect her skill. Until the last few chapters, those things never caused much conflict in her schedule and were on the very periphery of her story. (I remember being a college student: Life is all about the deadlines.) I felt like everyone else defined who Jacqueline was as a main character, but I didn’t have a good grasp on the things she proclaimed to love. I felt very distanced from her as a reader.

The majority of the time, it seemed she went out of her way to meet up with Lucas and dropped everything to be at his beck and call. I really liked Lucas’ personality — very much, actually, but I did have some pretty major drawbacks when it came to understanding who he was though. One thought that crossed through my mind several times was: Is there nothing this boy can’t do? Is there anything he doesn’t do perfectly? He tutors, works at Starbucks, beats up assholes trying to victimize women, teaches self-defense classes, knows how to sketch anything and everything, is a full time student and professor’s assistant, a campus handyman, and oh, is mind blowing at sex. I understand the appeal: Lucas is what every girl wants but can’t have. He’s got tattoos, a lip ring, longish hair, rides a motorcycle, and has a nicely toned body. He’s not very realistic. I could not mesh the tattooed barista with the nerdy scholar who would somehow have time to workout, learn to draw, or have any semblance of a normal life (or get a single minute of sleep, ever).

While great points were made discussing the importance of turning in victimizers, reporting rapes, and knowing a few moves to protect yourself from said a-holes, I found myself slightly displaced. I didn’t feel like I was actively a part of the story, but instead staring down at a little college village where life was happening with these people I could not connect with. I didn’t have a problem putting down the book and walking away for a day; the story didn’t suck me in and consume me.

While I will not discount the subject matter Webber chose to take on, I will admit that I very much felt like Easy was trying to make a point to me. I read reviews about books that mention religion and someone will say, “I felt like the author was preaching to me.” I walked away with the exact same sentiment. The message was very clear, but I felt this was another disconnect for me. Instead of imagining Jacqueline taking the self-defense classes, I felt I needed to be taking notes so I would know how to protect myself. I do think Webber’s message — women need to know how to protect themselves — is a very important one and I wholeheartedly agree; I simply wish the message didn’t overcompensate for the character development I felt was lacking.

[I realize I’m in the very small minority of people who have written a less-than-glowing review for Easy. That being said, I do think you should check out Easy by Tammara Webber. It’s only $5.99 on Amazon!]

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Estelle: Saving Ruth by Zoe Fishman

Saving Ruth by Zoe FishmanSaving Ruth by Zoe Fishman
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 304
Target audience: Adult fiction
Keywords: eating disorder, college student, racial prejudices, summer
How I found out about it: A pick for Big Kids’ Table

Summary: Ruth is back in the south, on her first summer break since leaving for college in the fall. Life at home is intense, her older brother is distant, and no one can stop commenting on her weight loss (she thinks she looks great, they think she looks too skinny). Even working at the pool isn’t the relief it used to be as judgements begin to surface after a child nearly drowns.

I can remember how weird it was to come home that first summer after being away for 2 semesters. You’re used to so much freedom and all of a sudden you are under the same roof with your parents and the same rules. As for friends, it always took a little while to get back into the swing of things with people you didn’t see that often.

After reading so much YA, it was interesting to read an adult contemporary title about a 19-year old who had some very adult problems. (I actually don’t know why it couldn’t have been classfied as YA.) Ruth is forcing herself to keep a very strict diet and exercise plan. After being an overweight child, she is scared that gaining any ounce will mean she will be right back where she began. When I read about a character with an eating disorder, I’m always curious about what moment would be their breaking point. Despite the comments from her family and friends, Ruth maintains this regiment for a majority of the book. Fishman does a realistic job of painting this girl who was so affected by the people she grew up with and even the small comments made now and then by her parents. No one knew that those small moments could grow to mean so much.

In fact, Ruth is “hired” to help another overweight girl in the neighborhood after her mom sees how “fabulous” Ruth was looking. (Ironic, isn’t it?) I loved the train of thought that came out of these lessons and also the parellels between her and the youngin. That’s the thing about Ruth. She is completely aware of what she is doing. She knows she lacks the knowledge of proper nutrition but even knowing that is not enough for her to put a halt to her behaviors.

A well-done subplot of the novel was also the difficult relationship Ruth had with her brother, David. The once popular/uber successful/soccer star champion is suddenly withdrawn and Ruth has no idea how to get through to him. I was very caught up in their relationship and what might have been David’s problem. (I guessed wrong.) David’s secrets open a can of worms when an emergency occurs at the pool and Ruth is forced to face certain truths about him. Not only that, but prejudices she never encountered start to bubble and force her to see others in her community differently.

Fishman has created a well-written work that manages to weave in various storylines and not pollute the pages with too much of anything. She has a refreshing and simple style that was easy to connect with and I couldn’t put the novel down. (Sidenote: there’s also some romance and I mention that because it’s sweet but also I love how Fishman doesn’t make it bigger than it ought to be.) In fact, I was utterly sad when it was over. In the end this book is about people vying for control of their lives and how that control is so fragile. So it’s also about learning how to let go, go with the flow, and why that isn’t always the easy thing to do.

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Estelle: Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park
Pages: 400
Release Date: April 11, 2011
Target Audience: Young Adult/Adult Contemporary/Romance
Publisher: Createspace
Format: Nook eBook
How I found out about it: Read about it on a blog a long time ago & downloaded it.

Summary: Julie has just moved to Boston from Ohio to start her freshman year of college, and discovers her “apartment” is actually a Mexican restaurant. Lucky for her, one of her mom’s college pals lives in Boston and invites her to stay with them until Julie can find a real place to live. Pretty immediately, Julie can sense something is not so right with Watkins family. The parents are never home and depend on their college-aged son, Matt, to take care of his younger sister, Celeste. At 13 years old, Celeste talks a big game but walks around the house with a life-size cardboard cutout of her older brother, Finn, who is off traveling the world. She warms to Julie, so when the Watkins offer her free room and board, she jumps for the chance to help Celeste (and also continue to get to know the sweet and mysterious brother Finn through Facebook messages).

The day I started this eBook I was scrolling through some reviews on Goodreads, and saw that someone read the book in its entirely in two days. TWO DAYS. My Nook was not shy to tell me I would have 768 pages to read. In fact, I saw that once before and the page count scared me away. I’m not sure what made me give it another try. The reviews on Goodreads were SO positive; they were difficult to ignore. Magan and I laughed that anyone who read it in 2 days probably had no life. And here I am to tell you, I read it in two days too. And I am PROUD to say I have no life.

Flat-Out Love blew me away. Completely. I can’t even count it as a young adult novel because the circumstances are just so adult. Even though Julie is 18 years old, she acts much older. Her natural response to life is to help people and understand them. Perhaps this is because her own father left her mother, and is too much of a workaholic to pay attention to her. But this is a book that emphasizes the fact that the children are constantly taking on the roles of the parents. Matt, a geeky reclusive guy who has a fondness for t-shirts with funny messages on them, has so much responsibility when it comes to his younger sister. Julie can’t understand it. She’s 13 years old. She should want to be more independent. Matt goes to the teacher conferences, and picks her up at school. Matt is in COLLEGE. He should want to go out from time to time, and not be tied to his bedroom. Not to mention, the whole family seems to accept the fact that Celeste is walking around this with cardboard cut-out and actively talking to it. She knows her brother is away, and treats “Flat Finn” as just another member of the family.

Julie humors Celeste, and the young girl begins to trust Julie. I liked this relationship a lot. It’s not every day you read about the younger sister and the main character forming a bond. Celeste has a better vocabulary than I do, and despite her “issues” she can sound like a 50-year old lady. It’s actually quite funny when you are not wondering what the hell happened to this girl to make her want to detach herself from her peers and depend on a cardboard cut-out. I love Julie’s drive and passion for this family. She wants to get down to the bottom of it, and while other teenagers might go about it rashly, Julie is slow and steady when it comes to “resolving things”.

Then there’s Finn. Dreamy, dreamy Finn. When Julie finds out she is staying in Finn’s room, she sends him a quick Facebook message to introduce herself and so begins their flirty, intense back and forth. I so looked forward to reading their notes to one another, and even more so when they would chat online. Julie learns a little about the issues surrounding the Watkins’ behavior through Finn but he still avoids plenty of questions. She is convinced that him coming home will resolve much of the unhappiness of the family. (Not to mention she wants to see this guy in the flesh!) While Julie forms a close friendship with Matt, he is still unwilling to confide in her and she finds solace and a partnership with Finn (even from afar). It sets up an interesting dynamic because Matt gives off the impression that he is just living in Finn’s shadow and doesn’t seem to like that Julie is falling for him.

As you can see, there are many layers to this book. The author, Jessica Park, has a great handle on these characters. They are well-developed, they are imperfect, and they are all trying to figure crap out. Despite the length, the pacing is perfect. It never feels slow or rushed. I want to tell you what happens so badly. But all I can say is I was screaming WHAT WHAT WHAT very loud. I may have figured out a little something about the story along the way but I don’t think anyone can predict the final twists and turns. But they are rational decisions. Not all of them heartbreaking either. It all comes together in a way that makes sense even if it’s not what I expected at all or totally typical.

So here’s the rundown: there’s romance, flirting, geekiness, absent parents, some mystery, secrets, laughs, Christmas trees, and plenty of Facebook updates.

In other words, what are you waiting for?

BTW, the format of the Nook copy has the wrong word count. It’s basically half of 768. You can stop panicking now.

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