Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Chronicle Books for review!
Practical Charlotte and imaginative Emily may be two creative and artist...moreThank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Chronicle Books for review!
Practical Charlotte and imaginative Emily may be two creative and artistic sisters, but their opinions and habits often clash in Haworth. They both notice their brother Branwell acting oddly -- or, more so than usual -- coinciding with their neighbor's mysterious death. Soon Charlotte and Emily meet the neighbor's son, a frightened woman, and a determined stranger on the moors, each with a different story that, eventually, influence the sisters' writing and future success.
This review is battling two sets of opinions (ha, quite like these sisters!): one based off a Brontë fanatic and academic, and one based off a YA reader. As someone who has spent the last 10 years researching the Brontë family, reading their works, watching adaptations, and reading the occasional fictional account, I would have rated this with 1 star. Their lives were exaggerated and slightly misrepresented, and something about their father Patrick seemed off from all I've researched on him. Then again, the only true critic would be someone who befriended the real Brontës, and obviously they're long gone.
As a YA reader, I could give this 4 stars. It's a great introduction to the secluded family, to the minds of the authors of the strange and wild stories, to the gothic feel of the moors. The mystery is intriguing, the situations the sisters encounter are thrilling, and the growth between the sisters is beautiful to watch. Emily and Charlotte are given alternating chapters in their own POV, and I have to say Emily's is most compelling. She's given life and freedom, while Charlotte's seems restrained. Maybe it's an expression of their personalities, but I've always had a soft spot for the real Charlotte and it would've been great to read some more depth in her chapters. Something quite like Jane's in Jane Eyre -- restrained to others but inwardly flourishing.
For a cozy mystery set on the English moors in the 1830s, this is an entertaining read. Yet I wouldn't recommend this to someone who is a massive Brontë fan or scholar. It's a good bridge for those new to the Brontës and their quiet yet turbulent lives.
Cath is a famous Simon Snow fan. At least, in the fandom. She's written several fanfics about Simon Snow, and her latest mammoth creation is regarded...moreCath is a famous Simon Snow fan. At least, in the fandom. She's written several fanfics about Simon Snow, and her latest mammoth creation is regarded as the final book in the series. But Cath is horrible in real life social situations. Her twin sister, Wren, is anxious to start college and experience all the new opportunities; Cath is terrified of meeting people. At first she likes that her roommate leaves her alone, but her ever-present friend Levi constantly tries to bring Cath out of her shell. She thought her Fiction Writing class would be phenomenal, but her professor scorns fanfiction. And to top it off, Cath's father tends to experience extreme manic episodes, and this is the first time he would be on his own without his twin daughters. Cath begins college a terrified, anxious girl, entirely dependent on a fictional world to help her get by -- and transitions into a more confident woman, a journey beautiful one to behold.
I don't even know where to begin with this review because this book spoke to me on so many levels! Maybe I should begin with the levels.
As a fangirl . . . I was deeply ingrained in the Harry Potter fandom. From age 11-15 I was constantly checking forums for theories about the books and characters, reading fanfiction, participating in "ship" discussions -- everything. I didn't like to admit it to my friends because speaking about it made it seem stupid. But really, it was a joy playing around in JKR's world. That's exactly what Cath does with this HP knock-off world of Simon Snow (which, by the way, the blatant Harry Potter (and Twilight! Ha!) references cracked me up!). It's so strange and liberating reading a book about something millions of people experienced secretly and openly. I loved how Cath's fanfic had such a huge following -- it reminded me of Cassandra Claire (note the spelling) and her Draco Trilogy. Anyone remember that? Man.
As an anxious person . . . Cath has extreme social anxiety. While I can handle social situations fairly easily, it was such a relief to read about a character who truly does have difficulty interacting with people and day-to-day life. She over-thinks every scenario with any trip she needs to take. There's a good portion of the beginning of the book where Cath is scared to go to the dining hall, and therefore doesn't know where the dining hall is located. She's not afraid of getting lost, but looking stupid: where to pick up a tray (if there is a tray), where to stand in line (if there are lines) for food, where to check out, where to sit, if it's okay to sit alone (and how to sit alone and look normal, not lonely), etc. Reagan, her roommate, handles these situations so perfectly. She literally drags Cath everywhere with her, forcing her to experience college life without actually pressuring her to do anything.
As someone hesitant about relationships . . . Sometimes the whole insta-love thing works, and it can be beautiful and magical and wonderful. But let's be honest -- more often than not, insta-love doesn't happen, and someone is extremely nervous in the relationship (or pre-relationship). Cath, slowly but surely, begins to like Levi. She's not sure how to handle it, considering she's confused about the Reagan-Levi dynamic and she's intimidated by the fact he's a junior -- and in college years, that's like a decade older than her and a million times more experienced. And she handles these emotions like any anxious, nervous person would: she refuses to think about it and dwell on it. As the reader, you notice she likes him because she's mentioning his habits, his quirks, his expressions: all signs of observational skills. What's fantastic about this is that Levi isn't traditionally handsome. He's not some huge hunk of sculpted meat and brilliant brains and touching sensitivity -- he's a nice guy. It's so beautiful. So beautiful, it makes me want to cry.
The writing is phenomenal. I love Rowell's style, and there's something about her voice that makes every scene hilarious, terrifying, emotional, and heartfelt all at once. It's raw and honest and real. I don't know how else I can explain this magnificence of this book, and so I'll close with saying I'm clutching this book to my chest and never letting go.(less)