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25982869Title: Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here
Author: Anna Breslaw
Pages: 288
Year: 2016
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Time taken to read: 3 days
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsis: Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor. When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. And if they ever find out what Scarlett truly thinks about them, she’ll be thrust into a situation far more dramatic than anything she’s ever seen on TV.

This is difficult. Throughout the first three-fourths of this book, I thought it was god awful. It was like somebody tried to write their own version of Fangirl but with a really obnoxious main character. Really, really obnoxious. I mean, Scarlett is infuriating. She’s actually really funny a lot of the time, but all she’s capable of doing is making fun of people who are more well-liked than her and feeling sorry for herself because she’s not one of them. I think the only reason her personality was tolerable was because people were consistently calling her out on it, which increased in frequency towards the last fourth of the book, which is why I started to hate it less then. And of course she learned her lesson and believes that Ashley is actually a human being now and is even going to be friends with her! I guess that’s character development, but it felt like weak, cheap, predictable character development. And speaking of weak writing…Scarlett’s fanfiction, the “Miss Ordinaria” story is horrifying. Was there no one along the process of publishing this book that felt like having a fictional subplot about teenage sex robots is disgusting and stupid? I mean, I was totally like Scarlett when I was really into Sherlock. I was a lunatic, and I wrote dumb fanfiction (that I’m still oddly proud of, truthfully), but even at my deepest point of cringe-y fandom, I would have thought this was weird. And I’d just like to point out that there were some fandom references, like certain acronyms and stuff, that even I didn’t get, so I can’t imagine how this book must have looked to a normal person.

Look, it’s not like there were no reasons for Scarlett to feel sorry for herself. Besides high school, she lived in a tiny apartment with an “absent” mother (who actually seemed pretty present and loving in my opinion). I don’t really know how to approach the subject of Scarlett being poor. She says it a lot, and I’m not going to say that no poor people have Converse, but it just felt like a detail that could have been used to emphasize Scarlett’s situation and did the exact opposite, and it threw in another unnecessary cliche on top of that. And I’d also like to note that in real high schools, people don’t actually openly get made fun of for being poor. I was very much part of the middle class when I was in high school, and you know who made fun of me? A girl who probably came from one of the poorest families in town. Another detail that bothered me: Scarlett complains that Gideon makes fun of fat people, and I get that they made fun of Leslie, and I guess Leslie was supposed to be the fat girl, but I don’t remember a mention of Leslie’s size, and even if there was one, it didn’t come from the guys making fun of her–it would have come from the narrator, Scarlett. In fact, Scarlett uses a term I have yet to hear, “skinny-fat,” which she describes as not being fat but also not being “toned” (148). And that left me thinking, am I skinny-fat? I’m not toned. Is she describing that girl that’s on the front and back covers? Because she’s just skinny. (And her glasses are super cliche. FYI, I’m a giant nerd, and I have perfect vision. But anyway, she looks like me, maybe slightly more stick-like, and considering the fact that I’m underweight, I don’t think I should be described by any word, hyphenated or otherwise, that has the word “fat” in it (despite the fact that I do feel that way about myself sometimes). Oh, and then there was the mention, near the beginning, of carbs, “even quinoa,” being so bad for you that it kills brain cells, cited by Avery’s father, a nutrition professor. You know where I was going while I was reading this on the train? Eating disorder therapy. You know what we had for dinner that night at eating disorder therapy? Quinoa. Yeah, I felt great. Listen, this is why I want to be an editor. I need YA authors to understand who is reading their books. These comments won’t affect everyone of course, but teenagers are fragile. When you write for teens, it is your job to use every word to build them up, or at the very least to make sure not one word is there that could tear them down. I’m officially instating a new rule for YA authors: you’re not allowed to mention food in a negative context or weight in any context unless it’s to celebrate body diversity.

In the end, I’m giving this three stars rather than two because even though this is a crappy version of Fangirl, I like to think that even normal girls who are really obsessed with TV shows are interesting enough to write books about, because I’ve been that girl. And because it’s pointed out more than once that Scarlett is a real asshole, often by Gideon, who is, like, a decent love interest. She barely talks about his looks, other to say that he was chubby at some point. There’s some good body diversity. This has been a review.

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16068905Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Pages: 445
Year: 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Time taken to read: 6 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsisCath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

This was my first Rainbow Rowell book, and I’ll admit, I expected to hate it. I thought it was going to be a whiny introvert who thinks she’s better than everyone else because she doesn’t get drunk every weekend and likes to write and blah blah, but Cath isn’t like that at all. She never looks down on Wren for drinking and partying, although she does worry about her a lot, and rightfully so. I see a lot of my 18-year-old self in Cath, actually. Like, a lot. I was also an English major, and I spent a lot of time in my first year of college reading and writing fanfiction (mostly Sherlock, how embarrassing). And I spent a lot of time in my second year of college feeling really guilty about being there because I thought I should be home to take care of my family. So yeah, I really felt for Cath. I also really liked her whole issue with Nick, because I thought he was going to be the love interest but he turned out to be a jerk in a really interesting way.

Plus, Rainbow Rowell is just a really f**king good writer. I wrote down a couple of lines in my notebook because she just said some really amazing things in really amazing ways. So, for that reason, I plan to try more of her books very soon. (Unfortunately the library was closed fo maintenance today.) I think my favorite line was, “Talking to Reagan was like standing in front of an oncoming train.” There was just such incredible imagery in every chapter that really made the story come alive, and I think that was really necessary because honestly, the actual storyline is not that interesting. I thought the most interesting part was Wren’s hospital visit. Other than that, it was just Cath’s little life, which was engaging because of her character and the writing, but not because of the story. I never felt like I needed to tear through this book to find out what happens at the end. It wasn’t suspenseful. It was just a piece of someone’s life. But often, that’s good, because we’re all just living pieces of our own lives, so it’s normal and relatable.

The only two things that bothered me about this book were 1. the fact that everyone had weird names, and 2. Cath’s relationship with Levi. I just didn’t buy the idea of him being interested in her. I felt like their semi-friendship through Reagan early on felt very natural, but the actual dating felt forced. I feel like he would have found her to be ultimately boring, but people are surprising all the time, so whatever. I guess because of that I really didn’t care about their relationship because I can’t imagine it lasting. I mostly just cared about Cath and her sister and their dad. Oh, and I also didn’t like the ending. It stopped really suddenly, and I was so confused. Did she finish her version of the last Simon Snow book in time? Did she actually write about her mom for her short story? Are they just never going to talk to their mom again? Is Cath going to take the next advanced fiction course? So many questions, but I guess that shows that I cared about the characters. Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. It was refreshing to read about someone in college rather than in high school. I would recommend it to YA readers looking for something just a little bit different.