LGBT, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Try Me (Extracurricular Activities #2): by Neve Wilder

Publish Date: August 5th, 2020
Number of Pages: 390 Pages
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre(s): LGBT, New Adult Romance, Erotica

**Warning!! This book contains spoilers from the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!***

To see my review of book 1 – Want Me – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

That was the scary thing about love. It was unpredictable and unfathomable, and when you were walking a tightrope in its throes, the only thing that mattered was how much you trusted the person walking it with you.

– Neve Wilder, “Try Me”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

Two rivals. One law internship. A whole lot of objectionable activity.

It wasn’t always this way between us.
We were best friends growing up.
Competitive? Yeah.
Ruthless? Definitely.
Neither of us liked to lose.

But the intense chemistry?
That’s new.
The hatred in his eyes?
That’s new, too.

I should let it go.
There’s too much bad blood between our families. Between us.
But I can’t.
I don’t think he can, either.

Now we’re gunning for the same internship.
If he thinks I’ll back down, he’s dead wrong.

Once upon a time, I lost everything.
I won’t let it happen again.

Go ahead. Try me.

From the author of Want Me comes the second new adult college romance in the Extracurricular Activities series. Expect drama, snark, feels, egregious misuse of private property, a guy who’s way more heteroflexible than he realized, and a semi-sorta reformed bad boy who loves to test him.

~~~

This book was a great surprise to me! Book 1 was smoking hot with the focus solely on Nate and Eric and their smoldering relationship that formed, but one thing it kind of failed to do was make me care about any of the side characters. Mark was a notable character, but he was more an antagonist sort of with how he was confronting the two of them about why they were sneaking around, but he didn’t do much else besides just knowing him as one of Nate’s fraternity brothers and friend. When he had a fight with Chet, whom you don’t really meet in person in the book, part of me was wondering why I should care…but then I started this book and found out why.

This second installment in this MM college romance story now revolves around Mark and Chet, who have some interesting history that leads up to this book. They’re childhood friends who had a falling out and lost touch. There’s a ton more to that story, but you gotta read the book to get all that info! We’re gonna jump back to the present to when they get into a fight at Nate and Eric’s housewarming party, but then discover they’re fighting for the same law firm internship. Can they keep things professional and not let their history get in the way???

It’s a new adult romance novel and they’re the main characters, so of course they can and just like book 1, it’s total flame emojis….

I was surprised how much the author made me care about these characters, especially when Chet wasn’t even in the previous book…but oh yeah, I was rooting for them from page 1!

This book was a little more of a slow-burn in comparison, there isn’t a sex scene in EVERY chapter, but oh man is the spice awesome once again!

It also helps that this book had two perspectives telling the story instead of just one. It made the story feel deeper and more layered depths to it. I really think that helped in this book, especially with all the history between Mark and Chet.

But don’t let that deter you…the author still kept it pretty hot and steamy and dirty between these guys….it makes me jealous that all these hot, non-straight college males all live in the same house and I got nothing even close to that in my not-so-long-ago college days…

~~~

Mark Farrow, the boy I’d crushed on before I even knew what a crush was. The first guy I’d ever jacked off to. The first guy I’d ever wanted to kiss. The first guy who’d ever touched me exactly the fucking way I’d wanted to be touched. The only guy I could never have.

– Neve Wilder, “Try Me”

What I Liked:

  1. The Spice Continues! This book gets a 4-pepper rating in my system, it was filled with some extremely hot moments just like the previous book. It didn’t start in the first chapter this time, but oh man was it still a spicy read!
  2. Duo-Perspectives! I liked that the author switched it up and made both characters narrate the story. It added some complexity and more side-plots to the story. Both Mark and Chet got equal amount of time, and each an awesome side to this story!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Parents Suck….I was NOT a fan of Mark’s dad, and not just because he’s kind of the villain/antagonist in this story.

Conclusion:

Overall, I once again really enjoyed this book and am continuing to become a fan of this author REAL quick! Neve Wilder writes some hot-as-hell MM spicy romance and I want to learn all this authors other titles too!

Highly recommend if you’re into MM romance with a lot of spice as well as fluff, but mostly spice! Also if you’re into college romance stories, that’s an added plus here!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, LGBT, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Want Me (Extracurriculars #1): by Neve Wilder

Publish Date: May 6th, 2019
Number of Pages: 304 Pages
Publisher: Kindle Edition
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, LGBT, Erotica

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

That’s not handholding. That’s like … hand fucking. Or hand seduction. Your hand is seducing mine and my hand has zero game. It’s just gonna hop into bed with yours without dinner or a drink first. Maybe I need to give it a lecture about standards.

– Neve Wilder, “Want Me”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

Two roommates. One calculus exam. A whole lot of extracurricular activity.

Nate:
Living with four other guys, it’s bound to happen.
Every guy’s been caught taking care of business at least once, right?
It shouldn’t be a big deal.

But I don’t know Eric as well as my other roommates, and things are a little awkward now.
He’s a loner. A mystery. Quietly confident. Smart.
Sexy as hell.

I’ve been happily subsisting on the typical frat guy diet of booze and sorority girls.
But the way Eric looked at me that night?
There was something there.
Something that’s got me curious.
Something that’s stirring up feelings I thought I’d left behind for good.

Something that’s making me think I’m not as straight as I thought I was.

I can’t get him off of my mind.
I don’t think I want to.

So when he offers to help me study for a midterm, I take him up on it.

It’s innocent.
Probably. Maybe.

There’s no way I could’ve known what it’d start…

~~~

Lately I’ve been in a reading slump, which I’m starting to notice is a normal thing for me in the spring time. Maybe it’s how the weather is nicer so I’m more likely to be out and about, and life just gets busier because of it to the point where I’m not concentrating as much on the books I read, and I feel the struggle with high octane, fantasy genre stories…

…this is where I turn to hot, quick, mindless smutty books to ward off the slump!

After DNFing several books prior to this one, I was relieved when I flew through this one no problem at all! It’s exactly what I’m looking for when I’m in this reading mood.

This MM romance book is HOT. Plain and simple. There’s so much sex in this story I almost want to say it’s ridiculous, but I enjoyed it way too much to even complain about it!

The story revolves around Nate and Eric, two college guys who are also roommates in the same house with three other guys living with them. Nate gets caught by Eric when he’s….taming the dragon? Having some fun with “Jill?” Whatever you want to call it, but after the initial shock, there’s a curiosity that grows between them, and then the extra push is when Nate needs help with an algebra exam coming up…Eric is right there to help him out in more ways than one!

The story is told through Nate’s perspective, and he’s an absolute delight to follow along with. His commentary is hilarious, and he’s a pretty standup guy who’s awkward and charming and easily likable. Eric is a lot more mysterious and alluring at first, and part of you questions his intentions at first, but he grows on you too as you get to know him better.

~~~

I didn’t know a lot about him beyond that he was majoring in structural engineering. And currently minoring in confusing my dick.

– Neve Wilder, “Want Me”

What I Liked:

  1. There Is SO Much Sex! I mean….we’re talking hot AF hooking up in almost every chapter!! There definitely wasn’t a shortage of spice in this book!
  2. There Wasn’t A Random Break-Up Right Before The End! One thing I see all the time in romance novels is that dramatic breakup the couple always has to have right towards the end…like a secret gets out or there’s some last minute drama that comes between them, and luckily this sort of thing happens earlier in the book! It was refreshing because I’m always like “Okay….we know they’re gonna end up together…cut the shit!”
  3. The Banter & Dirty Talk! Eric is a sexy dirty mouthed bastard, and I love him for it! The conversations between him and Nate are a highlight, no doubt!
  4. Its Hilarious As Much As It Is Sexy! This goes with the banter a little bit, but even the narration with Nate telling the story was pretty funny! The author really knew how to sound like a guy in college!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. There Wasn’t As Much Build Up With Other Main Characters for The Next Books…this one is kinda nit-picky, but hey, I have to include something in this section at least! There wasn’t a whole lot of development with many other characters except for maybe Marc, but he’s off screen—or page?—so often that it doesn’t feel like he does much…the author throws subtle hints that more is to come with some drama with Marc and another character, but it’s barely touched on to the point that this book feels like it could just be a standalone because it didn’t really make you feel a whole lot for the other characters.

Conclusion:

Overall, this book was EXACTLY what I needed after DNFing several books prior to it! It was hot, sweet, quick, and sexy as hell with some equally cute and tender moments between the two main characters!

There’s two more books to make this a trilogy, and while the author didn’t build up the other characters quite as much as I’d liked, the fact that this is the steamiest book I’ve read this year so far is what makes me want to keep reading and see what happens next!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: The Risk (Briar-U #2): by Elle Kennedy

Publication Date: February 18th, 2019
Number of Pages: 432 Pages
Publisher: Elle Kennedy, Inc.
Genre(s): New Adult Romance

***Warning! This review may contain spoilers from the previous book in the series, so continue at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – The Chase – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

A kiss, at its very core, is an emotional experience. Or at least it is for me. Anyone can give me an orgasm, but not everyone can touch my soul. One kiss can make me fall in love with someone.”

– Elle Kennedy, “The Risk”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

A sexy standalone novel from New York Times and international bestselling author Elle Kennedy. THE RISK takes you back to the world of hot hockey players, feisty heroines, bro banter, and steamy scenes…

Everyone says I’m a bad girl. They’re only partly right—I don’t let fear rule me, and I certainly don’t care what people think. But I draw the line at sleeping with the enemy. As the daughter of Briar’s head hockey coach, I’d be vilified if I hooked up with a player from a rival team.

And that’s who Jake Connelly is. Harvard’s star forward is arrogant, annoying, and too attractive for his own good. But fate is cruel—I require his help to secure a much-coveted internship, and the sexy jerk isn’t making it easy for me.

I need Connelly to be my fake boyfriend.

For every fake date…he wants a real one.

Which means this bad girl is in big trouble. Nothing good can come from sneaking around with Jake Connelly. My father would kill me, my friends will revolt, and my post-college career is on the line. But while it’s getting harder and harder to resist Jake’s oozing sex appeal and cocky grin, I refuse to fall for him.

That’s the one risk I’m not willing to take.

~~~

Once again my love for fictional college hockey players in books written by Elle Kennedy is lit up like a spark on the Fourth of July because this book was another absolute hit for me!

I tend to switch back and forth between the Romance and Fantasy genres, hopefully both having a little steam to them too, but when I get done with a Fantasy book or series that’s so rich in worldbuilding, an intricately laced together plot, and lots of emotionally driven angst from both the characters and me as I’m reading it, switching from that to a lighter toned, easy read like these books are such a relaxing change of pace for me. they’re the kind of book I can enjoy at the beach now that the summer months are upon us where I’m located as I’m typing this, and they’re easier to put down and come back to several times in a day if needed. They don’t require my full attention in order to fully grasp everything, and that is seriously such a great thing all in it’s own! I certainly appreciate books like that just as much as my thicker and heavier and darker themed Fantasy books too.

Back to this story, this was another Elle Kennedy college romance story that I absolutely devoured, and was a title I enjoyed even more than the previous one! I really enjoyed the pace of it better, I think I related even more to the characters and the issues they faced this time around, and the romance was once again scorching and I couldn’t get enough of it!

This story revolved around Brenna Jensen, who is the daughter of the head coach for the Men’s Hockey Team at the fictional Briar University. She’s got an edge to her with confidence to spare, a mouth that has no qualms about telling someone off when it’s needed, and doesn’t follow orders very well. Hockey has always been in her life and is also one of her big passions that she wants to pursue in her own way.

Next there’s Jake Connelly, whose the captain of the Hockey team at Harvard, who also happens to be one of Briar U’s biggest rivals. He’s a senior who also already has a contract pretty much set up for the NHL once he graduates, so he takes his position very seriously. He plans to have his team go all the way and win the frozen four, and will do whatever it takes to make sure him and none of his teammates get distracted, least of all by girls on the side of the enemy who flirt with his teammates and is possibly gathering intel.

Brenna wants to become a sports broadcaster and has an interview for an internship that is an incredibly opportunity that could also really open some doors for her down the road. Unfortunately, her interviewer and possible future boss is a gigantic sexist pig who already questions her on how a woman has a place in the sports industry, like how much knowledge would a female have about Hockey anyway, right? Brenna does her best to not slap the bejeezus out of him and stay professional, because again this is the opportunity of a lifetime for her, but her hopes and dreams are starting to disappear until the guy admits he’s got his eye on a particular incoming rookie to the NHL, a particular captain of the Harvard hockey team named Jake Connelly. Since they’ve already been talking—well, he’s been warning her to stop distracting his teammates, not that she was really going to listen to him—and hatched a plan to put her even further into that door and lies that Jake and her are a couple and can have them meet! From there, the fake dating and enemies-to-lovers romance tropes commence!

Jake and Brenna quickly became one of my favorite couples that Elle Kennedy created for her books, and I can say I felt the sparks between them even back when they first met back in the previous book. Neither of them wanted to admit it, or maybe weren’t even aware of it at the time, but there was instantly something there! I loved their chemistry, and was a little surprised at how there were some reviews on Goodreads that said the opposite! Not to knock them or their opinion that doesn’t match mine, but you know that strange feeling you get when you feel so strong about something but someone has the complete opposite thought about it than you and you just can’t comprehend it? Well, to be fair, it almost felt like there was the possibility of setting Brenna up with Hollis, one of the Briar-U players who’s also a total comedic relief, but I liked her and Jake much better!

I am honestly starting to question evolution. We went from cavemen, to homo sapiens, to this incredible society of great minds—Alexander Graham Bell inventing telephones, Steve Jobs inventing…everything. And now we’re devolving. We’ve travelled back to cavemen, only nowadays we call them fuckboys.”

– Elle Kennedy, “The Risk”

What I Liked:

  1. The Romance Tropes! We’ve got fake dating, we’ve got unlikely allies, we’ve got sleeping with the enemy, forbidden love, and it all just makes this story so much fun to read!
  2. More Smut Than The Previous Book! Yes, The Chase was such a slow-burn with that you don’t get as many sexy scenes as you’d probably like, but this book had a lot more that might make a lot of fans of the author’s books happier in that regards. Brenna and Jake had some really good chemistry in my opinion, and the whole “sleeping with the enemy,” forbidden-ness of them being together certainly added some flair to the mix. These two were smoldering towards each other ever since they ran into each other in the first book, and it was only a matter of time before something erupted between them!
  3. The Comedy and the Banter! I mean, I think I point this factor out with literally every Elle Kennedy book review I’ve done by this point, but it’s seriously such a highlight for me everytime I open one of her books! The back-and-forths her characters have always have me chuckling on the side and also making me believe in the credibility in the romance between them. And Elle Kennedy also always has some running joke that continues throughout each book; this time it’s the….interesting relationship between Hollis and an incredibly extra freshman, Rupi. I didn’t hate their side relationship to the story, and it certainly made me laugh a few times, but it was a lot all at the same time.
  4. The Realistic Issues! The outer issues the characters face in the Briar-U series are so much better done and much more realistic than the ones in the Off-Campus series! Not that I didn’t love some of the drama back then, but I can admit that sometimes it got a little over the top. Once again Elle Kennedy tackles a heavier subject matter that a lot of women of all ages face: misogyny in the workplace. Brenna’s goal is to get an internship for her sports broadcasting dream career, but her boss is such a narrow minded prick when it comes to women and their roles in society, like part of me couldn’t even fathom that women all over actually get treated this way! This book also deals with the guilt one feels after a traumatic past experience that haunts them even years later, AKA survivors guilt. People make bad decisions all the time, and just because you love—or loved—someone at the time when they were making those bad life choices in no way should reflect upon you no matter what you may tell yourself. It’s an actual thing, and many people have probably suffered this in their lives over something, and I thought it was an inner issue that was handled well in this book, and sheds a light on a condition that honestly doesn’t get a whole lot of recognition but like I said, a lot of people have probably experienced it at some point in their lives and haven’t addressed about it as much as they’d have liked. The strained relationship between Brenna and her father was also another issue that was a great addition to the story, and the development of it throughout this story is something to take note of!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Jake’s Childhood Friend, Hazel…I just didn’t see much of a need to include her in the story to be honest. I thought there was a strange amount of emphasis put upon her when she came into the story, and part of me thought it meant that she was going to be a future love interest and/or main character for one of the future books. Luckily for me, that’s not the case, but all in all I just didn’t really care much for her addition to the story. I felt like she just added unnecessary conflict to the plot that could’ve done just as well without her.

Conclusion:

Yet another fun, hilarious, and sexy novel written by one of my favorite New Adult Romance authors, The Risk has everything you love about her books for those who are familiar with her work, but also is easy enough to jump into for those who are newer and just starting out with her as well!

These books are just such a nice change of pace sometimes from the darker and heavier themes I read in a lot of my Fantasy genre books, I’d just finished The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout as I’m typing this, and while I absolutely adored it, I have to admit I need a little space from Fantasy for at least like three books. I think I actually need a recovery from a book, and that is such a strange feeling for me!

Elle Kennedy’s college romance books are just lighter, easier, and remarkable in a way that’s way different from those other books, but I love them all the same and appreciate them in my life! For those who also read these, Hunter Davenport is the star of the next book in this series, and with his story arc so far in these books, it’ll certainly be interesting to see him center-stage and (of course) get his own little HEA.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: The Chase (Briar U #1): by Elle Kennedy

Publish Date: August 26th, 2018
Number of Pages: 372 Pages
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing
Genre(s): New Adult, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

The Off-Campus series is one of my absolute favorite romance series to date with Elle Kennedy’s ability to perfectly mix humor and steam into one heck of a juicy story, so imagine my excitement when I learn that there’s another series set to release that’s in the same world! If I like something enough, of course I’m like every other member of a fandom who begs and pleads and prays to the creator of whatever it is to PLEASE GIVE US MORE, and it’s insanely satisfying when they do, add some extra YAY in there when it’s not terrible and a total cash-grab.

The Briar-U spinoff series definitely feels like the former in that sense when I got to reading this title as soon as I was able to find a hard copy. Even though it’s a new batch of main characters, the same chemistry and the same amount of angst, banter, sexual tension, and love scenes were all present in how the previous characters may have been so memorable for you like they were for me.

If anyone read my review of The Goal (Off-Campus #4), you’ll remember that I was less than thrilled about it. It’s not that I hated it, but it was definitely the weakest of the series, and that’s rather unfortunate considering it was the finisher to the series. My point is that this time around I was way more behind the couple from the get-go; their chemistry was plain as day and I couldn’t get enough of it all! It was a great bounce back from the less-than-stellar previous book for me.

It was a smart decision for the author to bring back some somewhat familiar faces from the previous books too: There was Hunter: the freshman who Dean kind of took under his wing, there was Collin Fitzgerald or “Fitzy,” the quiet, tattooed, game design student, and then there was also Summer, who is Dean’s younger sister. They were all really minor characters before, but now it’s great to see them get the spotlight this time around!

That doesn’t mean there also aren’t plenty of new faces to add to the bunch: there’s Summer’s instant new BFF, Brenna, who also happens to be the coach’s daughter, and Hollis, who’s Hunter and Fitz’s roommate. I think it’s also cool to add that these guys live in the same house that Garrett, Logan, Dean, and Tucker all lived in; it’s a great way to further connect the two series together like that.

For the most part, this book is pretty light in tone, there are some major social issues that are brought to light within the story, but I go more into that later down in the review.

What It’s About:

With the start of a new semester at Briar University, and while some faces have graduated and moved away, there are plenty of new faces to stir up some entertaining drama and romance much like the previous Off-Campus series! Some of the characters are some familiar names; they were underclassmen Hunter and Fitzy who have taken over the very same house that Garrett, Logan, Dean, and Tucker lived in their junior and senior years.

Another returning character is Summer DiLaurentis, Dean’s younger sister, who’s transferred from her previous ivy league university under some mysterious circumstances…but she has nowhere to go. Even as a legacy to join one of the top sororities on campus, they reject her due to her circumstances at her previous school, so she calls in a favor to her brother, and believe it or not, winds up rooming with Hunter, Fitzy, and another teammate named Hollis.

The issue with this set up? The obvious spark that’s between Summer and Fitzy that only grows bigger and bigger as they live under the same roof. He tries to act like there’s nothing going on, but just perhaps the lady doth protest too much…It’s total opposites attract: Fitzy’s an introverted, broody, heavily tattooed, and has Game Design as his major while Summer is kind of a total Elle Woods: Blonde, bubbly, gorgeous, and a Fashion Design major. On paper, it appears like there’s no way they’d be right for each other, but that certainly doesn’t stop the sexual tension to keep rising and rising until someone’s about to explode!

What I Liked:

  1. The Familiar Faces! I really enjoyed seeing some returning characters like Summer, Hunter, and Fitzy; they were really minor characters in the previous series and didn’t get a whole lot of attention, so it was enticing to see them get the spotlight on them this time around. There were also some cameos from some previous Briar University students like Garrett, Hannah, Tucker, and of course Dean and Allie. Happy to see that the couples are all still together and moving forward with the next step of their lives. It was like paying homage to the base this series grew from and you kind of got that jolt of excitement you usually get when you get to have a big reunion with your friends.
  2. The Social Issues Brought Up! Learning disabilities, sexual assault on college campuses, girl-on-girl hatred, judging people based off appearances, and broken families are issues that a lot of us face in our daily lives. These were some serious issues that were brought up in this book that I also think were handled incredibly well and respectfully by the author. It made the story feel a lot more meaningful and relatable because yeah, I definitely have experience with at least one of them myself. These were much more realistic than some of the other issues Elle Kennedy has brought up in her books, so you can tell there’s been some maturing of her writing ability by this point!
  3. The Laughs! Hilarious one-liners, ongoing jokes with certain characters, and the steamy banter all make what I believe make Elle Kennedy an incredibly popular author within the NA Romance genre.
  4. The Love Triangle! I know….weird to say since everyone seems to be completely over this whole trope indefinitely, but I can say I still enjoy it from time to time depending on how it’s handled. There’s some major angst that brews between Summer, Fitzy, and Hunter (who also shows major romantic interest in her). Kind of awkward since they literally all live in the same house together, and of course you know who Summer is going to end up with, so part of me was also torn on how Hunter reacts later on, but I can say it made me wonder how in the heck the two main characters will end up together!
  5. Nerd Culture! Fitzy’s a Game Design major and is also a pretty intelligent guy, he falls pretty far from the stereotypical dumb jock, so of course that means he’s going to have a vast knowledge of video games and technology in general. Someone else pointed it out on Goodreads too, but I had to agree that it seemed like Elle Kennedy really did her research and made all the terms and platforms she mentions feel authentic and genuine. I’m by no means a game nerd in any way so I’m not the most legit source on whether this part was done correctly, but it for sure felt real to me.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Slow-Burn…I mean, the sexual tension was good, don’t get me wrong, but part of me was kind of hoping for more steamy smut scenes than what we actually got in this book. What we did get was some absolutely scorching, off the charts hot stuff, but based off what’s gone down in the books of the previous series, I was just kind of hoping for more.

Conclusion:

It was a total joy to come back into the world of Briar University with all the hockey players and the ladies who rock their skates off, one by one with each new installment! I’m so happy that there’s going to be even more books, because like the Off-Campus series, this new cast of characters seem like an exciting bunch who’ll make you excited to see what will possibly happen next, and also wonder who’ll end up together.

If you loved the previous series, you’re going to adore this one too, and I can also say you’ll even enjoy this book even if you haven’t read them at all. First: I definitely say you SHOULD read them because of how amazing I think they are as a series, and second: The beginning might be a little jarring with the listing of so many names of people—the characters of the previous series—who make a cameo return before the story goes to focus more on the newer batch of the cast. Just want to throw that out there for anyone’s consideration.

Elle Kennedy continues to be a favorite Romance genre author for me with this new spinoff series, I’m really looking forward to the next three books too!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult, New Adult Romance, YA Contemporary Fiction, YA romance

My Review: Fangirl: by Rainbow Rowell

Publish Date: September 10th, 2013
Number of Pages: 438 Pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre(s): YA Fiction, YA Romance, New Adult, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

Real life was something happening in her peripheral vision.”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

It may sound ironic, but this has to be one of the most popular books that I’ve come across that doesn’t have an actual fandom for it. Those who’ve read it all have said it’s a great story to enjoy and that they really enjoyed it, so why isn’t it referred to by many more avid book readers? Why don’t I see it showcased more on the many #Bookstagram accounts I follow? There’s also the later released book Carry On by this author too but everyone who’s read both said that this book comes first, so here we are!

I will say that besides other’s recommendations with that reading order, I had my own curiosity with this title for personal reasons. For those not aware, I’ve been on-and-off working on a coming-of-age college story of my own over the last two years, and this title popped out at me to what to check out to gather intel, see how the story works, what worked well and what didn’t, what I would change, help make some of my own college memories resurface, etc. For anyone interested, go check out my story’s progress on its page titled “When In Doubt (WIP Fiction Series)” on the main menu bar. It’s had its ups and downs and with a lot going on in my personal life at the time I’m typing this review, I haven’t worked on it as much as I’d liked to, but enough self-promotion, back to this review!…

You’re never going to find a guy who’s exactly like you—first of all, because that guy never leaves his dorm room.”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

I liked but didn’t love this book, even as I found it to be one of the more unique stories I’ve read in the YA reading level. the main character, Cath, who is a lot like most of us who have our heads in a book: she’s awkward, weird, complex, anti-social, and full of her own inner stories based off her favorite franchise, which is called Simon Snow and is basically a Harry Potter knockoff. Being a total Potterhead myself, even if the books no longer have an author (Shame!), I could totally relate because the Harry Potter franchise is what started it all for me! They’re the books that really got me truly passionate about books, about film, about storytelling in general, and is the catalyst that truly made me think “I want to do that” for the first time in my younger years.

As for why I didn’t love this book, it just felt like there could’ve been more that happened in terms of the plot? I think it just had too many slower moments that made it somewhat harder to keep my attention from wandering, and even the conclusion I felt like could’ve been bigger. It just felt like not as much as I’d thought would happen by the end had actually done so. I did love the growth that the main character went through as the story in all aspects: her family, finding her first love, and of course friendship, and felt like she was definitely a different person once we got from point A to point B, but I was hoping maybe there would be a bigger, and grander ending of some sort? Maybe the story works the way it is, but part of me felt like there was some buildup with Cath’s writing that got a conclusion that just fell a little flat for me.

Now despite all that, there is plenty to praise the author as well! Rainbow Rowell’s characters and her work on them are a major highlight; I think just about everyone can read this story and have most if not all the characters remind them of someone they know in real life because of how real they feel. She even has the ability to make them all so complex, even as they stand on opposite ends of the social spectrum. What I mean by that actually is by comparing Cath to her twin sister, Wren, and how they interact as the story moves forward. Cath is a totally anti-social introvert who stays in her dorm to write fanfiction, but Wren has totally embraced the college party scene and wants to drift apart from her sister, but they meet up several times and while obviously Cath has a lot of inner depth to her, you even see it in her sister in little moments and as their family is put through the emotional wringer. It was the little moments like these that made me believe that the author truly knew her characters in and out.

I was also a fan of the romance—of course—that develops in Fangirl as well! What I liked about it the most was how realistic it felt. Sometimes, the romance genre can go so over the top and make it feel like we have to bend hand-over-knee or whatever that phrase is for our significant others, and those grand gestures are the one answer it takes to show them our true feelings. Well, life ain’t like that nor is it some spanish telenovela, and what we need to remember is that even the simplest of things can get the message across just as effectively. The little things do matter!

She smiled, and her eyes started to drift downward.

‘Cather…’

Back up to his eyes.

‘You know that I’m falling in love with you, right?'”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

Besides the characters, it’s the nostalgia that was the most powerful thing for me to come out of reading this book. It was the nostalgia of my own freshman year of college—perhaps the greatest year of my life—and of course all the fandoms that I’ve been a part of over the years. Whether we admit it or not, we’ve all been obsessed at one point or another with something much like Cath is with Simon Snow. We’ve read the books, we bought the (sometimes) overpriced merch, the action figures, we went to the midnight premieres in costume, we had those heated debates with friends, we shipped those couples that never become canon, we joined the fanclubs, etc. Some of them we can openly admit to and maybe can even still say we belong to it, but I can agree that there are probably some that we blush and stay mum about and keep it a total guilty pleasure. I’ve been like that, but as a way to end this section of this review, I’ll put myself out there and list off all the fandoms that I can remember that I’ve been a part of:

Disney’s Little Mermaid, Spongebob Squarepants, Winnie the Pooh, Power Rangers, Pokémon, Digimon, Sailor Moon, Bratz Dolls, Kids Next Door, WWE, Yu-Gi-Oh, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Throne of Glass (or any book by Sarah J. Maas honestly), From Blood and Ash series, Dexter’s Laboratory, Scooby Doo, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, Batman and Batman Beyond, Dragon Ball Z, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, Superman, Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, The Pussycat Dolls, Star Wars films, Teen Titans, Fairly Odd Parents, Danny Phantom, Choices, Schitt’s Creek, Samurai Jack, Finding Nemo, Stranger Things, MCU, Tomb Raider, Greek Mythology, The Powerpuff Girls, Shonen Jump manga, Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, An Ember in the Ashes series, The Vampire Diaries, MTV’s The Hills, The Folk of the Air series, Rocket Power, Rihanna, Ed Edd ‘n’ Eddy, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Looney Tunes, N*Sync, The Backstreet Boys, Kim Possible, That 70’s Show, Hannah Montana, Mean Girls, That’s So Raven, Phil of the Future, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Spy High, The Falling Kingdoms series, The Cheetah Girls, The Sims, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Nanny, Full House, Friends, New Girl, The Emperor’s New Groove, The Proud Family, Jesse McCartney, Lizzie Mcguire, Goosebumps, Totally Spies, Family Guy, The Land Before Time, Hocus Pocus, Boy Meets World, Duck Tales, Monster’s Inc, The Rugrats, Zoey 101, Drake and Josh, Zoobooks, The Black Cauldron, Roller Coaster Tycoon, The Lion King, The Fever Series, Queer Eye, Riverdale, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Pretty Little Liars, Once Upon a Time, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Pizza, American Horror Story, 13 Reasons Why, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight, and I’m sure plenty more that I can’t even remember! Here’s a crazy thought to leave you with: think of how the very person you are, your beliefs and personality and maybe even your soul is influenced by all the things like these that you grew up with, with the messages they sent you, the lessons you learned, and all that makes up who you are!

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath 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?

What I Liked:

  1. The College Nostalgia! Oh man, did this book bring me back to my own college days! I actually started my freshman year the fall of 2012, which is actually the school year after the timeline that this book takes place in, so I found a lot of the pop culture references, clothing choices, etc. to be really relatable. Even the time at the bowling alley reminded me of the many Thursday nights I went to the UW-Stout Alehouse for 50 cent bowling nights. My freshman year of college is what I consider the best year of my life so far, so the fact that this book made me think back to some really fond memories gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling right in the chest.
  2. The Themes! Family, isolation, love & sex, writing, drugs & alcohol, and of course coming of age are the themes I got while reading, and I thought they all commingled rather nicely into a realistic and touching story. Cath is so dedicated to her family even when she feels like everything is moving on without her which leads into the isolation. She’s not a partier like her twin sister and is totally content to stay in every night and just write more fanfiction because of social anxiety and the uncertainty of it all, I get it. Cath noticing boys in a new way, plus her growing relationship with Levi focuses on the love and sex aspects, add in a side note with Reagan as being involved with Levi in that regards too, but not in the way you might expect right off the bat. Creative Writing is a huge part of Cath’s life, plus the story follows her struggles with her writing course with Professor Piper and Nick. College and drinking go hand in hand—my two underage tickets can attest to that—and Wren really seems to embrace the party culture on campus with her blonde roommate, Courtney. Cath worries about her, but Wren continues to blow her off and downplay how far she goes whenever she goes out on the weekends.
  3. The Romance Between Levi and Cath! The budding relationship between these two was a little insta-love on Levi’s part, which actually wasn’t too bad since he wasn’t the protagonist, but it was actually kind of sweet how it was so obvious he was totally smitten for Cath since day one. Reagan, Cath’s roommate, plays an interesting role as the thing that initially keeps them apart in the beginning. What I really loved about their relationship and all that happened within it was just how realistic it felt. He never judged her for her quirks, he broke through her walls and pushed her in a non-manipulative and genuine way, and always offered his support no matter what. Usually with romance novels, it can go a little over the top with grand gestures to win someone over and heart wrenching confessions of love with gorgeous prose, and it wasn’t like that this time and it was actually rather refreshing. Sometimes the sweetest thing a guy can do is bring their girl a specialty starbucks drink when they meet up after his shift, he offers to drive you home to see your sick dad in the hospital even though it’s hours away, or he’s a total gentleman who admits he’s in love first and says he won’t do anything sexually that she doesn’t initiate first. This romance just simple, and that should be enough!
  4. The Author’s Character Work! Rainbow Rowell is really good at writing those quirky, oddball characters with plenty of complexity and a method to their madness. Each of them have their own distinctness to them, and you’ll never get confused with any of them or get their names mixed up. there’s an honesty about them in the sense that I feel like just about everyone in real life has met people who remind them of each and every one of these characters. There’s definitely a line straight down the middle and you either like a character or you don’t, there’s not a whole lot of in between, at least that’s the impression I got!

Sometimes writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity.”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Her Sister Wren Abandoning Her…Wren was a real piece of work throughout this book, and I was so frustrated with her most of the time! How could she so easily ditch her sister without a second thought, especially when she knew the anxiety issues Cath has and all that they’ve gone through together growing up, then just replaced her with Courtney, which no offense to her, wasn’t really an upgrade. I get her behavior to a certain degree: with college and new beginnings, it is a normal reaction to want to strike out and try new things, to test the waters and experiment, but know where you come from and don’t take the people who actually care about you for granted!
  2. Their Mother…What a bitch-a-rooney-dooney she was! I was totally on Cath’s side with this whole situation, even if a small chunk of me understood Wren’s need to have her come back into her life. But seriously… who ditches their family on 9/11? Like, the actual 9/11?!
  3. Too Much Fanfiction…So it sucks to say this about the book considering a huge them about it was about writing fanfiction, but I was not a fan of the passages of Cath’s story that we got. I know it would’ve been worse to not have any of them at all in the story, especially since there’s such an emphasis on it, but I thought there was just too much of it. I liked the parts when Cath read it to Levi for the most part, but I also never really got a gay vibe from Simon and Baz that everyone was totally gushing about. Not that I’m not for a gay relationship between a fictional wizard and vampire, but I wasn’t sold on the execution of what we were given.
  4. The Plot Felt Too Slow In Parts…This story did feel like it dragged in quite a few places, which can be a side effect of a character-driven story such as this one. Maybe it could’ve been a shorter story in general, or something totally shocking could’ve been added?
  5. The Ending Could’ve Been More Grand…For some reason I was totally picturing a much bigger way to end the story, like the author of the Simon Snow franchise found Cath’s fanfiction on the internet and offered her a publishing collaboration deal or something like that. It felt like not as much actually happened by the time the actual ending took place, and it’d been a whole ten months of the school year!

Conclusion:

‘No,’ Cath said, ‘Seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.’”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a cute, genuine, and real take on growing up during an eventful moment in a young girl’s life: starting her freshman year of college and having to deal with major change from what she’s grown up used to. It’s a coming-of-age story filled with distinct characters, humor, angst, fanfiction, and first love that I really enjoyed for the most part, but still felt like something was still just missing that keeps it from becoming a hit classic that would have a lot more people refer back to it. It’s character-driven, and maybe it just had too many slower moments to keep it from really picking up, plotwise. However, It invokes feelings of nostalgia from either your own college days or from the fandoms you grew up being a part of; the memories this book helps invoke certainly does feel like a little gift from the past to warm your heart, which I think is the main reason that a lot of readers really enjoy this title.

One addition I would to make is that the author has teamed up with Gabi Nam, and almost paying homage to her fandom roots and themes with this book, they’ve transformed this story into a manga! Check it out in the link HERE and I can say I’d definitely be interested to check out this version of the book myself! Maybe it’ll translate better into this format, who knows!

Another addition is that now that Fangirl is under my belt is how I now get to read Carry On, which stars Simon Snow, the author’s knockoff version of Harry Potter, and how it reads like the work that Cath was working on in this book! Someone told me it’s basically a gay version of HP and I was sold! I have a copy on my shelf to read, and once I have a few other titles read under my belt first, I can’t wait to see what Rainbow Rowell did with this idea.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell