It is no wonder that this book became so popular among the book blogging world. Cath Avery is a ten out of ten on both the geek scale and the introver...moreIt is no wonder that this book became so popular among the book blogging world. Cath Avery is a ten out of ten on both the geek scale and the introvert scale. Chances are you know someone like Cath, and if your a fantasy nerd odds are good you yourself are a bit like Cath. Cath is the ultimate fan of what is more or less the Harry Potter of her world--the Simon Snow series. She's spent the last two years of her life heavily invested in writing her hugely popular slash fanfic of the series. This book follow her through her coming of age as a fan, a writer, and a young woman--through her first year of college, her first real relationship, and of course the closing curtains on her favorite book series.
Because I grew up with Harry Potter, quite literally, and because I was the type of fan that wrote and read fic (though never on Cath's scale), I found her completely charming. I know exactly what it's like to want to kidnap a fictional character and give them a different story. I know what it's like to want to stay in a fictional world so badly that you'll write more just to give yourself more time there. The mark of really good fantasy is that the characters and worlds take on their own life and make readers want to daydream and create and play there forever. And so it is for Cath, and you could say that it borders on unhealthy, and you do even worry a bit for her throughout the book when her obsession nears the point of taking over her life. She's, at best, two shaky steps away from full on crazy--but then, that is the nature of a fangirl.
What made Cath's character and behavior both intriguing and worrisome is that she's an extreme introvert. She arrives at university and doesn't just fail to make friends--she actively avoids them. She starves for a few weeks because she's too awkward to figure out the dining hall system. That's tragic. No, really, that's kind of frighteningly dysfunctional. When she finally starts to build a friendship/relationship with an older student named Levi, I started to breathe easily for her. Levi is an extreme extrovert--friendly, outgoing, eager to connect with every person he meets. He is exactly the balance Cath needs.
Cath's character arc is about learning to live and write outside of her comfort zone--outside of Simon Snow. She insists that all she can write is fanfiction, that she doesn't have characters or worlds of her own inside her. Being asked to write her own completely original short story is painful for her. My own major complaint for this book is that we don't get to see much of her actually overcoming this block. We're not really told how she works through it, but rather just left to trust that she does. I wanted to see a bit more of Cath's writing, since writing is who she is.
**spoiler alert** You know, it's a shame, because despite a brilliant concept and an intriguing dystopian world this series has been one big flop for...more**spoiler alert** You know, it's a shame, because despite a brilliant concept and an intriguing dystopian world this series has been one big flop for me. America is...well, I'm just going to say it, she's a bitch. Because even after all of the maturing she's been through she still refuses to express her feelings clearly. She openly admits to keeping Aspen as a safety net in case Maxon doesn't pick her--and this is fairly late into the book! She still thinks she wants a back up because God forbid she'd have to be alone, that's just the worst fate of all. Her only redeeming quality throughout this trilogy was that she was change minded and equality minded, that she had sympathy for the unfortunate and she wanted the castes gone. But then it this book, we find out that she's not the only female in the selection to be rebel-minded.
So you know what I think? The heroine should have been Kriss. No doubt in my mind. She's in the selection for her cause, because she believes in an ideal and she wants to see it brought to life. Then she meets Maxon and rather reluctantly falls in love with him for real. Her feelings are honest despite her secrets. She's sweet. She's unpretentious. She has her beliefs, but she's not impulsive. She's not trying to keep an old boyfriend as back up just in case. Her arc could have been, I don't know, learning to stand up for her beliefs despite her fears and her feelings for Maxon. Goddammit, it should have been her.(less)
This definitely falls under the So Bad It's Good classification. My initial impression was of an opposites-attract contemporary romance--the kind wher...moreThis definitely falls under the So Bad It's Good classification. My initial impression was of an opposites-attract contemporary romance--the kind where a bad boy falls for a conservative good girl and sparks fly. This turns out to not be the case, as we soon find out that the heroine, Abby, is a bit edgy in her own right. I think I might have preferred a nicer, saner, more well adjusted heroine in her place...and yet I don't entirely dislike her. More to the point, Travis (despite being an emotionally stunted caveman), managed to turn this book into a compulsively readable, cannot tear myself away reading experience.
The bulk of this book is spent riding the crazy stupid roller-coaster of melodrama that is Travis and Abby's relationship. Even their friendship, prior to their attempt at a romance, is rather volatile. Neither of them seems to know how to take things slow or do anything in half-measures--that's part of this book's charm. They don't just hang out, they have sleepovers where there is cuddling. They don't just party, they get shit-faced drunk and pass out in a bathtub. Travis doesn't just get jealous when other men hit on Abby--he beats the ever-loving hell out of them. They are constantly falling apart just to come together again. It's predictable and it's aggravating, because if they would just communicate like healthy adults things would be so much easier. And yet, even as they both ticked me off, I was invested in the story. It reminds me of daytime soap operas--complete rubbish that is never the less strangely entertaining, if you suspend your attachments to logic.
The only really intolerable feature of this book is Abby's inexplicable ability to attract all of the single men(every. single. one.) by doing nothing more than breathing and wearing mildly revealing clothing (sometimes). Even as she's hanging out with Travis (sleeping in his bed), she attracts a rich and handsome premed student who refuses to give up on trying to date her. Guys hit on her at parties and clubs like she's the only girl around. She is repeatedly grabbed/nearly sexually assaulted in various situations. She has an ex-boyfriend in Vegas who upon seeing her again cannot wait to blackmail her into dinner. Even Travis's brothers and father are smitten with her, although in an arguably more sisterly way. I know for some readers this might all be part of the fantasy--to be this unanimously desired heroine that everyone either wants to protect or screw (in some cases both). For me, I just didn't see what was so charming about her. Don't get me wrong, I didn't dislike her. I think she was emotionally unstable, she had her bitchy moments, and she definitely has some maturing to do. All of these things can also be said about Travis, but somehow those qualities annoyed me less in him (perhaps because I wasn't stuck in his head as I was with Abby).
This book is hard to grade because on merit alone it really is a train-wreck, but it's also as addictive as crack. It's just cute enough and just sexy enough that I don't want to tear it apart, even though it probably deserves it. Four stars. (less)
For whatever reason the premise of this book had me expecting delicious so-bad-it's-good cheese. Unfortunately I developed absolutely no fondness for...moreFor whatever reason the premise of this book had me expecting delicious so-bad-it's-good cheese. Unfortunately I developed absolutely no fondness for either main character, but more importantly there were simply too many of romance's more irritating tropes for me to enjoy this.
I have a very low tolerance for extremely virginal characters. No problem with virginity itself, but when the heroine has to have erections explained to her I just feel my eyes roll and I'm worried they might get stuck that way. Vivian is the absolute worst--zero awareness of her own body or orgasms or intercourse. Look, I KNOW, women of this time period were sheltered, I freaking get it, but I don't have to like it.
Then there's the makeover subplot which is never my favorite thing, and it's worse somehow because Darius is the one to insist on new clothes for Vivian. He's almost too sensitive, our hero, with his wardrobe makeover and his fondness for kittens and small children, and he's forever rubbing Vivian's feet or brushing her hair, bringing her hot beverages, buying her personalized perfume. In addition to occasional prostitution he farms and makes, I kid you not, herbal sashays to sell in town. He's written as someone's fantasy rather than as a person, but certainly not my fantasy because all I could think was oh please, just stop.
The other interesting thing about Darius is his whoring activities, which in themselves could have been hot but end up really awkward. Basically he's got a couple of female patrons who pay very well for the privilege of playing some extremely lightcore bdsm with him, in which he features mostly as a naughty pony or errant servant (trust me it is a lot less kinky than it sounds). And there's a bit of oral here and there, that's about it. What sort of stuck in my brain like a splinter about the whole thing is that the author makes repeated points of telling us how shameful this all is for Darius, and not necessarily just because he's been whoring, but also because of the submissive role therein. The women are painted in turn as bitches and then pathetic old ladies for seeking out this kind of activity, taking advantage of him (but come on, they didn't have Craigslist back then, what's a girl to do?) I'm sorry, but he chose his role, it's not like there aren't other women and men out there with other kinds of needs that maybe don't involve spanking if it bothers you so much. I don't know, the entire manner in which these relationships and characters were portrayed just disgusted me--Darius the victim, the dominatrix harpies, the angelic-by-contrast Vivian. Just, bleh. (less)