Archetype was among my favourite books of 2013. It was one of those books that I read very early and then had to wait to be able to put it into people...more Archetype was among my favourite books of 2013. It was one of those books that I read very early and then had to wait to be able to put it into people’s hands. Whenever someone asked me to recommend a thrilling book I told them to watch for Archetype in February 2014. I would tell them how absorbing it was and that I couldn’t put it down. And here I am, months later, simply dazzled by the follow-up book, Prototype, which I was fortunate enough to acquire early.
Dazzled, I say, because it’s a tremendous sequel.
* Spoilers for those who have not read Archetype *
Emma has escaped Declan Burke and fled their home after discovering that she is a clone. When he offers a sizeable reward for her return she must turn to her past for help. Now, with the resistance, she struggles to forget her time with Declan. She also begins to experience overwhelming moments of panic and obliteration which she brushes aside as trauma. In the midst of her adjustment Noah, her former husband before she was cloned, has moved on with another woman, Sonya. Sonya is raising Adrienne, Emma and Noah’s daughter whom Emma has never known. Emma, displaced and broken, tries to learn who she is and where she now belongs.
Emma fights fire with fire, turning Burke’s own manipulations back on him whenever she can. She is resourceful and courageous even in the face of insurmountable odds. She is the perfect blend of weak and malleable, strengths and flaws. She’s polarizing through and through.
The biggest thing about this book is the theme of identity and how Emma molds herself to her own, both past and present. Everyone has expectations of who she was and who she is now. This is a hard road to travel as she does not feel as if she identifies with Emma pre-cloning. Emma 2.0 (as she is jokingly dubbed by the members of the resistance) cannot reconcile the confusion of her own heart and is constantly pulled in every direction. As a result her conflicts are largely internal and the book reads as such. However, she finds ways to defy expectations and forges new paths for herself. Through it all she achieves the duality that comes from someone who has lived and lost, and fought with every step.
Emma’s gains are the reader’s gains, and her pain rings true as well. With every turn her endeavors become crucial, significant moments in the book. These moments are what makes Waters books so impressive; moments of incredible depth that stay with a reader long after the book’s conclusion.
Prototype is striking and poignant; a beautiful and terrifying glimpse of possibility. These books cannot be dismissed merely as potential, speculative fiction. They are plausible in every way.
Wild is an upcoming novel by Alex Mallory, a pen name for Saundra Mitchell. The book is a retelling of the classic Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Bu...more Wild is an upcoming novel by Alex Mallory, a pen name for Saundra Mitchell. The book is a retelling of the classic Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Retellings can be done very well or fail miserably. A good author pays attention to the original themes of the source book and treats the material with respect. Alex Mallory has done just that with Wild. This is a brilliant retelling.
Cade has lived in the forest for most of his life. When he was thirteen he buried his Father, and his mother a few years before. His parents instilled in him the skills to survive off the land. They also taught him to fear the outside world. Cade believes that he is one of the last humans alive and he has little to contradict that thought until the outside world shows up on his doorstep.
Dara and Josh are spending their spring break in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. They lied to their parents, deciding to camp outdoors rather than travel to Orlando with their friends. Ideally, the trip was supposed to be relaxing and romantic. However, inept camping skills on Josh’s part leads to a few critter invasions and tempers become frayed with little food. Dara is content to take photos until she senses another presence in the woods; a feeling that she never shakes. When a disaster forces Cade to return to the world his parents fled the book becomes one of the best fish-out-of-water stories that I have read in a long time.
Mallory nailed the themes from Tarzan. What she has done to modernize it in a contemporary setting is fantastic. Tarzan’s curiosity has always been his downfall. His obsession with outsiders when they enter his midst is a turning point. Throwing in electronic devices and shopping malls and instant food and convenience… all of these things work in a way that makes the classic tale come alive. The base elements are there and the characters match the pace.
Cade is the perfect reinvention of Tarzan, quick to temper and all. His intense loyalty, his direct and truthful personality, all of it rings true. There’s not an ounce of guile in his entire body. He is precisely who he needs to be. Dara is a great counterpart to him as well as a fresh take on Jane Porter. Jane was always a damsel in distress whereas Dara holds her own in any (and all) argument(s). Some of the best moments from the book come from Dara. She has more spunk than the original heroine but I’m not mad about it. Jane needed the revamp to appeal to today’s woman and Dara hits the note perfectly.
There are a few minor plot details that I am sketchy about but they’re minor quibbles. Overall the book is superb and I am really happy that Mallory chose to write it. It’s really, bloody good.
The final book in Kimberly Derting’s Pledge trilogy is a thrilling conclusion. I was immediately swept up into it and powered right through. It was pr...more The final book in Kimberly Derting’s Pledge trilogy is a thrilling conclusion. I was immediately swept up into it and powered right through. It was pretty much what I wanted with a few surprises along the way.
* Spoilers for those who have not read The Pledge and The Essence *
Charlie has become the Queen of Ludania but at a high price. Her psyche was bonded with Sabara’s and she has done her best to minimize her insistant demands. After a gathering of Queens at a yearly summit goes awry Charlie is lucky to get back to Ludania intact. But someone has not made it back and thanks to a messenger from another Queendom that someone’s life is at stake. Charlie decides to offer herself in lieu of the hostage and ventures into enemy territory with two of her closest comrades in order to finalize the deal. It’s only anyone’s guess if she will see the people that she loves again.
If the second book, The Essence, is largely character development then this book is all plot. The Offering grabs you by the throat and never lets go. The slow pace of the second book was completely absent in this one. I was sucked into the action and could not put the book down until the final moment. There’s a tension to this book that I have learned to appreciate from Derting’s writing and she pulls no punches with her storytelling.
There were one or two things that I would have changed character interaction-wise, but other than that I thought this was a fabulous ending.
Maybe Someday is the newest novel by Colleen Hoover. It releases March 18, 2014 from Atria Books. Having read her Slammed series last year to mixed re...more Maybe Someday is the newest novel by Colleen Hoover. It releases March 18, 2014 from Atria Books. Having read her Slammed series last year to mixed results I had level expectations going into this book.
My expectations, however, were exceeded tenfold. I positively loved this book.
Sydney lives in an apartment in Texas with her best friend, Tori. She has been dating Hunter for two years but he doesn’t live with them, instead choosing to visit often. One day an encounter with another man, Ridge, whose apartment is across the courtyard from Sydney’s, ignites a tentative texting friendship that will change Sydney’s life. First off, he reveals to her something that she does not know about Hunter and Tori and the news simply devastates Sydney. Now, homeless and heartbroken, she is invited to live with Ridge and his two room mates, Warren and Bridgette, until she gets on her feet again.
Sydney settles into life with her new house mates to mixed results. Warren has been Ridge’s best friend for ten years but he’s a loose cannon, and Bridgette is nearly unlikable. Ridge is a gifted musician. This is what drew Sydney to him in the beginning – his nightly guitar practice rituals on his balcony. But his musical ability hides something that takes Sydney a little bit of time to realize – Ridge is deaf. He works at home as a computer engineer but he has profound hearing loss and does not speak. Knowing this she enters into a friendship with him that is heavily reliant upon texts and instant messaging. The two discover that they share a passion for music and begin writing together; Sydney writes the lyrics while Ridge composes the melodies. When the two begin to develop an attraction to one another they discover other factors that could forever keep them apart.
There was something wholly perfect about this book. I cannot tell you the mathematical formula behind a great novel but Hoover nailed it precisely. Between the characters, the complexities, the plot arc, and the development everything added up to create a novel that was heart-felt, compassionate, and thoroughly entertaining. I was charmed the entire book and very impressed with Hoover. She’s come a long way.
It’s been a long time since I fell in love with a character, but I fell in love with Ridge. Unabashedly. He’s intelligent, he’s well-rounded, and though he has a disability it does not stop him from expressing everything that is within him. He’s one of those characters that has you sighing from page one and it never lets up. Sydney is also a great character and her struggle with her own heart rings true. She grows into a beautiful and self-assured young woman by the end of the book and her journey is nothing short of remarkable.
Fair warning to those who cringe at romantic tropes – there is a love triangle in this book. However, the story behind it is a big reason why Ridge and Sydney cannot be together. During this part of the book I kept telling myself that this story would work so much better if the three principles entered in to a polyamourous dynamic. That agreement could resolve everything in a snap. However, Hoover uses this plot to make one of her characters, Maggie, really shine. I was gunning for a poly ending until Maggie comes into her own. After that point the poly idea simply dissolved for me. It’s so strong a turning point on its own that it doesn’t need another complication, and I was really happy after the fact that it did not go there.
That said, where it went it went beautifully. This is a gorgeous book, strong and unforgettable. I know now that I will read Hoover again. I wasn’t so sure before, but because of this book I am convinced. This is one of the most believable romances that I have ever read. It’s not just for fans of the genre. This is a romance I would give to my friends who do not like romances. The power of this book cannot be denied.
The third and final book in Colleen Hoover’s New Adult Slammed series is done. And I, for one, am not sorry to see it go. In fact, don’t let the door...more The third and final book in Colleen Hoover’s New Adult Slammed series is done. And I, for one, am not sorry to see it go. In fact, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Where was my mind? Knee deep in wedding week, that’s where. And I am happy for it to be over. I would ordinarily not continue to read something I was so ambivalent about otherwise. However, I read it so I must review it.
Layken and Will have finally gotten married. During their honeymoon Lake relies upon typical girlish (and foolish) whims and asks Will to tell the story of how they met and what he was thinking about the whole time. Thus starts the biggest “you asked for it” scenario that I have ever read. And why I read it I still don’t know. This book, for all intents and purposes, is 95% identical to book one, Slammed. I thought the sequel, Point of Retreat, was overdoing it. I stand corrected. This is the literal manifestation of the phrase “beating a dead horse”.
Told from Will’s barely-different-than-Layken’s point-of-view we rehash the events of Slammed, just slightly different. I said in my Point of Retreat review that Lake is screamier and Will is punchier? This is what I was referring to; his tendency to hit things out of frustration. I wish I would have gone through and counted the number of times that Will punched something out of anger in this book. I’m sure it was supposed to give him depth but it didn’t work. He just seemed to have unresolved anger issues about anything and everything. And I’ve decided that he should drink more. Because that’s where he’s going if he doesn’t get some proper therapy.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Will. I think were it not for his POV I would never have bothered picking up the second and third books. I’m just annoyed at myself that I got sucked into two books that I didn’t need to read. Hoover focuses too much on details that hold no real power to the overarching structure of the book. She has soft rules when it comes to grammar and she doesn’t do anything new with character development. Oh sure, these characters had moments of growth, but they didn’t grow. And Hoover failed them. The proof is in the pudding when Lake asks Will to hear his point-of-view and then gets angry at him for several moments for telling her what he was actually going through. This shows that despite two years and two massive events between them she has not changed from the immature, self-involved snot that she was in Slammed… and I liked her (for some reason) in Slammed. Strike that, I liked that Hoover actually penned her the appropriate age and not a thirty year old stuck in a teenager’s body (which is the usual approach for seventeen and eighteen year old characters). However, she never progressed beyond this point and she should have considering the traumas that she has had to endure.
Will’s another story entirely. He actually decreased in estimation the further I went with him. And I am officially over it.
This Girl was a waste of reading time. It’s tediously exact, it’s mediocre to begin with, and it’s got nothing to offer a reader.
(And yet, on some level, it was better than book two. Figure that one out.)
Slammed is the first book by debut New Adult author Colleen Hoover. I picked it up on a whim after finding that I am not in the mood for anything heav...more Slammed is the first book by debut New Adult author Colleen Hoover. I picked it up on a whim after finding that I am not in the mood for anything heavy for the next few weeks (Sookie Stackhouse has even proven to be too much). I was immediately drawn into the story and liked the main character, Layken, from the very first page. So I settled into the book and began the tumultuous journey through mid-Michigan, a place I know very well.
Layken is a Texas native newly transported to Ypsilanti, Michigan. Her Father has been dead for almost a year and her Mother is having difficulty making ends meet. She, her Mom, and her little brother, Kel, move to Michigan in hopes to make a fresh, financial start. On the first day there she meets Will, her dashing across-the-street neighbour whose little brother, Caulder, quickly befriends Kel. Layken also finds herself drawn to their family, particularly Will. The two fall into a fast courtship that includes many eye opening experiences. After a night of slam poetry (Will’s passion) Layken and he discover a terrible secret that will keep the two of them apart.
Slammed had me interested until Hoover threw in one plot line that stopped me for a moment – A cancer plot line. Keep in mind that if you have personal experience with watching a loved one die from cancer that this is an important element. I do have personal experience and I usually give up on books that lead down this path as a result. Slammed, however, was not a book that I gave up on despite hitting my auto-shut-off button. Why? It’s very simple – the cancer thread does not dominate the plot line as one thinks it might. It’s more of a clothesline to hang the story on. It happens, and then the story shifts to other, more important focuses. To me it seemed more of an opening device to write a sequel than anything.
So what dominates the rest of the story? Will and Layken’s mutual attraction to one another despite their inability to be with one another. Yeah, it’s a romance. What do you expect? It’s not particularly deep or original, but it was fun and fluffy. And precisely what I needed this week.
Layken got to me a few times. She’s eighteen and still in high school and has that annoying youthful bite to her attitude. For once an author wrote a character of that age that actually seems to be that age (instead of most of the YA heroines who seem impossibly wise beyond their years). Layken is immature. And defiant. And whiny. And selfish. And for those reasons alone she reads as a perfect character of her age and her circumstances that is unused to hardship and not getting what she wants. Yet she isn’t spoiled, just thrown into new directions and uncertain how to proceed. We are witnessing her at the crossroads of her life and Hoover has written this transitional point of new adulthood well. It’s really a coming-of-age story for her. I would almost rather this be marketed as Young Adult rather than New Adult. There’s very little content wise that makes it NA.
Will is almost peripheral in this story, though he certainly dominates the focus of Layken’s obsessive fascinations. Will is Layken’s ultimate If-Only. If only everything were in its proper place than she wouldn’t have to resign herself on losing him. I enjoy reading Will, but when I step back a few paces and really examine the book he’s more one dimensional than I want him to be. I’m hoping that he will improve with the sequel, Point of Retreat, which is told from his point of view.
Other elements I liked about the story; Layken’s newly found best friend, Eddie (who is a girl, self-named after Eddie Izzard), the relationship between the two young friends Kel and Caulder, the minimization of the cancer plot line from the characters (in an attempt to maintain normalcy), and also some of the snark surrounding the cancer plot line. There’s a particularly creative set of Halloween costumes that leaps to mind when considering this statement. The poetry slams were also quite good, though I found the poetry writing to suffer from the law of diminishing returns. The first poem was fantastic but by the time we get to the poetic climax the poems have gotten stale and expected. Perhaps this is owed to the supposed “writers” of said poetry. Let’s just say that poetry written by an eighteen year old is bad and cliche no matter how “good” it is.
Keeping Her is a book in Cora Carmack’s Losing It series. I’ve gotten on quite a New Adult kick lately and this is one of the better series in the gen...more Keeping Her is a book in Cora Carmack’s Losing It series. I’ve gotten on quite a New Adult kick lately and this is one of the better series in the genre. This is a fun novella set between books one and two about Garrick and Bliss, the two characters from Losing It.
Bliss Edwards cannot believe her luck. She is not only involved but also engaged to Garrick Taylor, her smooth talking British lover and former theatre teacher. The two are quite happily dating and living together when Garrick proposes a trip to London to meet his family. The story starts on the morning of the plane trip when Bliss’s frazzled nerves have overtaken her good sense. What follows is a sweet and simple story about first impressions and new possibilities peppered with Carmack’s telling spunk and wit.
This series has a charm to it that I can’t resist and this novella is no exception. It’s short and sweet, but it’s also a fun look at a possible “what-if” moment between the two characters. Suddenly their future is uncertain and it’s a great moment for both the characters and the reader. I enjoyed it. And I recommend it.
And I can’t wait to read Finding It, book three in the series. I’m pumped now.
Emma was in an accident that has robbed her of her past. While convalescing she is introduced to Declan Burke, her charming and handsome husband whom...more Emma was in an accident that has robbed her of her past. While convalescing she is introduced to Declan Burke, her charming and handsome husband whom she does not remember. Declan is devoted and attentive but Emma is still having a hard time adjusting post-trauma. Haunted by disturbing dreams Emma turns to painting; easily creating lush seascapes that lull her into a false sense of security. When Emma's recovery is deemed acceptable she is sent home to the mountains with Declan. The two fall into an easy partnership with one another but something is off. Emma's dreams still undo her; dreams of the WTC and of a man named Noah. She begins to wonder if her dreams are only that or if they could mean the destruction of her entire world.
This book redefines the phrase "trophy wife". Archetype poses several frightening views of a possible future were women are bought and sold like merchandise. Every mandate about what they do with their bodies is strictly regulated by men. As such a woman's body does not belong to her. It belongs to her husband and he is within his legal rights to do whatever he wants with his property. It is a grim outlook of a future that could someday become reality.
Archetype is a dazzling debut, a very sharp book. It has such a dignified air to it, a beautiful poignancy in the writing. But the beauty is a skin deep mask threatening to expose itself at any moment. Beneath the surface is a haunting, corrosive tension that eats the reader alive. It makes the reader nauseous in the best possible way.
This is one of those books that seeps into your consciousness. It breeds discontent. It forces one to ponder the possible "what if?"… What if this book was true and this grim outlook implied a probably future for women? What if this is what our genders have to look forward to... the selling of sex in the most literal way.
Before I get into depth with this review let me just preface it with this – I am an Atheist. I was raised Catholic but never was faithful and abandone...more Before I get into depth with this review let me just preface it with this – I am an Atheist. I was raised Catholic but never was faithful and abandoned all pretense towards Religion in my adulthood. It all seemed like exotic Mythology to me rather than a basis for belief. To this day I maintain a staunch secular Humanist view towards morality.
The reason I bring this up is because I ordinarily would never approach a book with such a focus on Christian ideals and fundamentalism. I find too many of the books to be preachy and upsetting to me personally. However, Jeri Smith-Ready is one of my favourite authors. I knew that whatever she was going to do with this book would be done very well. I have every faith in her.
And my faith was rewarded tenfold because this is one of the best books that I have read in a long time, despite my initial apprehension. Jeri Smith-Ready has written a book about a boy of faith and an awful situation that I did not hate… That I rather loved, if truth be told. There’s a reason that she has been on my autobuy list for five years.
And, with that, on to the review.
David Cooper is in an awkward place in life. Since his older brother’s death his family has changed in unexpected ways. His Father, a severe alcoholic, gave up the bottle for God. His Father has also given up normal speak choosing to quote only scripture for conversation (if a particular passage applies to the situation). His Mother, tasked with the only household income, is unraveling from stress but maintains her belief that faith brings happiness. David’s older sister, Mara, is also coping in the best way that she can – by being the quintessential good girl (despite a secretive bad girl streak). David, a 16-year-old with proud Christian values, thinks it’s all too much even for him. He revels in his faith and his killer pitching arm knowing that a baseball career might be the only way that he will get to college.
One day, in their home school Math Cave, David meets Bailey. Bailey comes from hippie, pot-smoking parentage and believes in the pantheon of Science. Bailey is complete anathema to the Cooper family, challenging David’s faith, convictions, and principles. But Bailey cannot compete with the Coopers’ newest fervor. A woman named Sophia Visser has started a movement called The Rushers; a spiritual group of people who believe that the Rush (or Rapture) is near and that they must prepare for the world’s end. Suddenly David’s parents are obsessed, shirking everyone they know for the Rush and asking both David and Mara to sacrifice their lives for the good of the movement.
But David is 16, and only has one adolescence. And he won’t let anyone take that from him. Not even his God. Not even the Rush. However, things change when, one day, David and Mara wake up to find both of their parents are gone… leaving only their clothes and crucifixes behind.
This book has some of the best written, strongest, and most satisfying character dynamics that I have read in a long time. David, our narrator, is personable and quixotic. He wants to stretch his new boundaries, however he realizes that they conflict with everything he holds dear. Bailey represents the unknown future; a young woman with a very firm personality whose self-assurance will not allow her to sacrifice her own ideals for his. Bailey never gives, nor should she, because David also never takes. They have a perfectly beautiful relationship that sings from the page.
All of the relationships in David’s life are rather touching. His mother yields to her dominant husband but keeps an ardent eye on both her remaining children. It’s sad to see that she is really the only parent raising these two (since centuries old Bible passages often don’t apply to modern parental situations). David and Mara’s Father is a trip. He is hard and stoic, blindly following his faith as if it were another bottle. His devotion will lead to the ruination of his family if David cannot get through to him before the Rush comes. And, of course, there is his blossoming romance with Bailey, which is endearing and sweet. These are teen characters that all young adults should be reading. These are real people not just constructs. They are not just black or white. There are no extreme moral rights and wrongs in this book. These people just are, and they work, and they make this story beautiful.
I could go on and on about this book, it’s that thought-provoking. But I will leave it at this – It’s gorgeous, touching, focused, and warm. And it’s one of my favourite books I have read this year.
Of Metal and Wishes is an upcoming Gothic Young Adult novel by Sarah Fine. The book is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux set it...more Of Metal and Wishes is an upcoming Gothic Young Adult novel by Sarah Fine. The book is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux set it in a slaughterhouse. This novel is a stand alone.
Wen works alongside her father, Guiren, in the Gochan One, a slaughterhouse that supplies much of the surrounding area’s meat products. Wen assists Guiren, a doctor, as his nurse. While doing this all of her needs are met by the factory, though Gochan One extracts a heavy debt from its occupants. Wen tries to forget her Mother and embrace this new and strange life even as she is becoming more obliged to the factory.
During this time a group of outsiders become employed at Gochan One; the Noor. The Noor are perceived as barbarians and imbeciles and Wen tries to keep away from them. But an accident draws her to Melik, the outspoken rust-haired man who makes Wen forget herself. Just as their friendship begins to blossom Wen gets drawn into a mystery of Gochan One; that of a factory Ghost and his connections to many of the inner workings of the slaughterhouse.
It took me two-thirds of this book to recall that this was a Phantom retelling. I must have known at one point and forgotten this crucial detail. As a result the realization that this book was Phantom hit me out of the blue, and when it did the enlightenment was amazing. I was already in love with this book by the reveal and knowing that it was Phantom made me giddy. From that point on it was up to Fine to put all of the elements into place… and she did that very well. This is a story that doesn’t get retold often, a story that I unabashedly love for many years now. This is one of those literary areas where authors need to tread very carefully upon while reworking this tale. Fine hit the notes, she did the deed, and she made me a believer. This is a flawless retelling.
There are other things that Fine adds to flesh out the existing story – the social conflict with the Noors, the fear and the corruption of bigotry, the oppressive tyrannical underboss, Mugo… All of these elements breathed new life into the story of the Phantom. The mythos behind the ghost was also beautifully told as well. Fine handled him with a deft hand that makes him sympathetic and believable. His relationship with Wen is tender and sweet when it needs to be and equally terrifying when it has to be. The homage that she pays to both Erik and Leroux is both striking and heartfelt.
Fangirl is the second Young Adult novel by Rainbow Rowell. It is a standalone novel set in Lincoln, Nebraska during the first year of college for Cath...more Fangirl is the second Young Adult novel by Rainbow Rowell. It is a standalone novel set in Lincoln, Nebraska during the first year of college for Cath and Wren. Last week I read Rowell’s Young Adult debut novel, Eleanor & Park. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite some very harsher, gritty elements that served as post-traumatic stress triggers. Fangirl is a different animal altogether, and I loved it equally.
Cath is a creative writing student. She is obsessed with Simon Snow, a young adult fantasy series by Gemma T. Leslie. Leslie has hordes of fans who devote themselves to writing fan fiction, hoping to stretch out her legacy with their own views of how they want her series to end. With the final book looming Cath is desperate to conclude her own fan fiction, Carry On, Simon; a story that has become the most popular fic on FanFixx.net
During her first semester Cath undergoes a number of new and frightening things that completely upset her world. The first is the withdrawal of her twin sister, Wren, from her everyday life. The two (who have always been devoted to each other) are now barely speaking. The second is a writing teacher who is commercially viable in the publishing market and who knows what it takes to get there. When Cath and her writing instructor clash on a few different writing points it sets Cath back in any progress that she has made in her personal growth.
The third is Levi. Levi is her dorm mate, Reagan’s, boyfriend… or so Cath thinks. Levi is over-friendly and super confident and Cath doesn’t know what to make of him. When she finds herself drawn to him she begins to doubt her own priorities. But what is invention and creativity in comparison to real world experience?
Fangirl is a sweet and endearing story, far more subtle than Eleanor & Park. The romance elements are more muted and take longer to develop. Much of the book is spent in Cath’s room and in the fiction she is writing in an internal secondary story. This fleshed her out more than her own passages – her love for Simon Snow. Ultimately this is her truest characterization in the book, her obsessions with these books. They define her. They shaped her. It’s a characteristic that few appreciate or understand. However, those who are closest to her embrace her devotion and love her for it.
There is also an element of bittersweet to this novel that is a bit unexpected. It comes from Cath and Wren’s father, who is bi-polar and living throughout a massive change; that both of his daughters are gone suddenly. This change upsets his world and he veers into mania very quickly without his daughters in the house to keep an eye on him. There were moments in these parts of the book that really touched me. The closeness between Cath and her father, the willingness to sacrifice… this is another moment where Cath shows her true spirit and defines herself as a true, moral force.
I love this book. It’s really special. And so is Rainbow Rowell.