My Passion's Pen

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Review: Fangirl

Fangirl
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has been out for a while, so I’ll save you all the recap of the story. Instead, I’ll share what I liked, what I didn’t like, etc.

Likes:
-Tight 3rd person POV.
-A refreshing spin on a common theme (coming of age).
-Excellent use of secondary character arcs and subtext. I’d love to read a more about Art (Cath and Wren’s dad).
-Unique structure intertwines Cath’s fanfiction, fiction, and real life. At first I thought I could skip the parts that showcased the other stories because I’m not a Harry Potter fan, but they seemed to build off one another. I marvelled at what I envisioned Rowell’s writing process–actually writing several books at once with the same theme and struggles but set in different realms of space and time.
-Realistic portrayal of first relationships and new loves. Cath is a creature of habit and feels safest in a routine, but the whole of college and being separated from her twin sister could send her into a tizzy. Instead, she clings to her constant–Simon Snow fanfiction. Conversely, it is Wren who falls apart, becoming the poster child for teens behaving badly.
-Untraditional love interests. I figured out early on that Nick was the antagonist, just like I knew it was Hans from his very first lines in “Frozen.” Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I’m definitely NOT a romantic. I knew from the beginning that Levi was into Cath and that he and Reagan weren’t truly dating. The complexity and depth of their relationship was a bit of a surprise. I never really believed Reagan was the mega bitch she pretended to be. I liked her from the start.
-Rowell writes in a way that draws you in and makes you not want to leave.

Dislikes:
-Too tight of a POV. There is very little time spent with other interesting characters. I am unfamiliar with depression, anxiety, and mood disorders, so when it is revealed that Art lives with these issues (Cath acknowledges her own struggles but Wren doesn’t) and how the girls have coped, I was deeply intrigued. Then to learn not that their mother passed away as I initially suspected, but that she left them when they were old enough to remember the good and bad of her, I was so angry for Art, Cath, and Wren. I wanted to follow that arc and not go into Cath falling for Levi. Their family dynamic was much more interesting to me.
-The use of the other stories was confusing for a little while, particularly once they became so tightly bound. **I usually turn on my phone’s screen reader to listen to books during my commute, so if there were any physical markers other than asterisks, my reader didn’t pick them up.** After a while, I didn’t see how Cath’s story could exist without the others.
-The ending. I see a trend with Rowell, and I’m not sure I like it. Her endings don’t fade, they are like a cymbal crash of a bombastic march, and then it’s over. As with “Eleanor & Park,” I was left wanting but not entirely unfulfilled, which is not unlike Gillian Flynn’s ending which fade as if transitioning to another movement, so the audience doesn’t know to applaud or not. What we’ve just experienced was brilliant, but is there more?

I liked this book for it’s refreshing take on life. It exposed me to a realm I’m unfamiliar with, offering a bit of an escape and opportunity to explore new worlds. I totally want to read some Simon Snow (but not Harry Potter). “Fangirl” feels much more deliberately YA than “Eleanor & Park,” perhaps it’s because the latter reflects my generation, and therefore more relatable.

What I liked best is that Cath is incredibly unsure of everything except a couple of points: Simon Snow and her family. She fiercely fights, in her own way, to hold on to her truths and not lose herself. It seems detrimental at first, but Cath is so much tougher than what she seems.

“Fangirl” is definitely worth recommending, particularly for those who are embarking on major life changes. Stay true to yourself.

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Review: The Dividing Line

The Dividing Line
The Dividing Line by Victoria H. Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

**Reviewer was given this book in exchange for an honest review**
Dividing Line is a very different book than The Space Between. The “against all odds” romance has given way to real life challenges for Drake and Lacey.
Living in Paris together but not cohabitating (which I thought was just weird considering Drake moved and was virtually penniless), Drake and Lacey find refuge in one another as they adjust to life abroad. Lacey’s show is successful and she’s developed a bit of celebrity, but she tries to remain humble. Drake is muddling through life in Paris. He works a menial job and plays the role of supportive boyfriend to Lacey. The book’s synopsis plays up that Drake is eclipsed by Lacey’s rising star, but I didn’t get that feeling. What I felt more was that things were out of order for Drake, and that boiled down to him not being the primary breadwinner (his chest beating is minor, he’s actually gracious about it all). Throughout their time together in Paris, their youth and inexperience took center stage in their relationship. From the outside, Lacey and Drake look like a balanced team, but they’re not. Why they don’t live together, even after almost a year in Paris was difficult for me to grasp. Neither of them professed to follow any dogma, and they certainly had no problem being sexually active, yet they took issue (Drake took issue) with them living together before marriage. And Lacey became a knowitall mother hen-type.
I have to say, I wasn’t feeling Lacey in this book. There was a change in her that I don’t think had much to do with character growth. This is, without a doubt, Drake’s book. Things kind of “happen” to Lacey and are swiftly resolved. I don’t feel she’s much of an active player; her presence was not missed by me when the story focused on Drake.
In a series of way too coincidental events, Drake finally admits that he’s unfulfilled in Paris and wants to go home. Lacey is obligated to her show and lets him go.
I enjoyed reading about Drake’s adjustments to inner-city living. What I didn’t like was that this book was much more overtly smutty than the last, the language more coarse. Ms. Smith’s delivery in the first book as a welcome change of pace. Sure, their relationship matured, but I got tired of hearing about how horny they were.
Although I liked spending time with Drake, the middle of the book dragged. Especially when Lacey was again the focus. Insert a suave and handsome new costar for Lacey, and a quirky cutie for Drake. There was one misunderstanding and missed connection after another; I wondered when these guys would just call it quits altogether. The pacing of the events that went on during their separation read like months, not a few weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the theme of the book–Drake’s self-discovery, learning his identity, coming to terms with who he was. I would have truly enjoyed reading more. Lacey just didn’t help the story. She became a set piece.
During their welcome home party, there was reference to a mystery visitor that Derrick and Drake were to keep Lacey away from. I figured out who that was right away, and was left waiting quite a while for him to finally catch up to her. This was supposed to be suspenseful and emotional, but it read like a standard trope to me. I have to give it to Ms. Smith, though, what begins as predictable has a few twists; however, the expected end still is reached, it just takes a little bit longer to get there.
After all is said and done, tears shed, losses counted, victories tallied, and truths told, everything wrapped up too tidily for me.
This book has MASSIVE potential to be thought provoking and moving, but I had a difficult time staying with it. The writing quality ebbed and flowed. The Space Between was a much better executed book, but Dividing Line had a better story, although the plotting and pacing were off.
I want more story. I want more character growth. I just want more.

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