“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell, A Coming of Age Story

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a very cute coming of age story that fits right between YA and the bookshelves of adulthood.

Cath is fan fiction writing fiend. With several thousand followers, fan fiction, specifically Simon Snow fan fiction, is her life. And it used to be something that brought Cath and her twin sister, Wren, closer together. But after graduating high school, Wren starts to distance herself from fan fiction and from Cath, electing to room with someone else at the college they are both going to. Forced room with a stranger, an older girl with an ever-present boyfriend, Cath’s social anxiety is worse than ever. In addition to her feelings of abandonment, Cath is also challenged in her classes, with a professor that wants to her give up her fan fiction and start creating her own stories. In this coming of age story, Cath must decide whether she can make it through college without her twin, and whether she can leave behind her obsession with Simon Snow and wildly successful fan fiction.

Set in a classic university setting, this book brought back memories for me of what it was like to suddenly become technically an adult, but not quite an adult, when entering the college sphere. The loneliness, the embarrassment, the new relationships, and the ability to look at the world with new eyes—seeing details and perspectives that a high schooler can’t possibly dream of. From the perspective of a introverted, anxiety-ridden, literature obsessed young woman, this novel spoke to me on many levels.

Despite Rowell’s clever writing, the first half of this novel dragged a little. There was just too much self-pity and fear embedded in the main character, which I think helped make Cath believable, but also made it hard for me to feel anything other than pity for her. But by the second half, Cath finally starts to change and Rowell’s writing consequently shines, feeling very fluid and natural, especially in the dialogue. I loved seeing Cath start to come into herself, pushing her limits and making genuine friendships, all while continuing to worry and care about her loved ones that were purposely distancing themselves from her. It was partly her relationships with people that made her feel like such a complex character, and made this such a memorable book.

Something to be aware of if you are thinking about picking up this book, Fangirl does use a lot of language for a YA book, and contains multiple drug and alcohol, and sexual references, things you would probably expect to find on a college campus. There were several times I considered putting it down as I’m not very comfortable with strong language, but obviously I decided to finish it anyway. I also wouldn’t classify it as a YA novel, though it isn’t quite an adult novel either. It sits comfortably in between the two categories, and may be a good bridge novel for those transitioning between the two genres.

3 Stars



Dark and Light in “Three Dark Crowns” by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake began much darker than I expected, or cared for. In fact, after the first two chapters I put it down, not expecting to finish it.  But circumstances resulted in me picking it up again a week later because I couldn’t find any of the other book I’d been planning to read that day. And I am so glad I did.

The premise is this: triplet sisters are born to the queen, each with their own special gift, and tradition dictates that only one sister may live to rule, the others must die at the hands of the others.

The basic premise of this story demands a certain gravity, but Blake balanced it excellently with lighter elements that kept the story moving, and gave the reader hope without turning it into a melodrama. It was dark at times, but it also had enough light that I didn’t feel bogged down, but rather pulled in.

Written from multiple perspectives, this story switches between several characters, each one brilliantly developed, relatable, likable, and unappealing in their own ways. Each perspective forms a puzzle piece that fit perfectly between all the others to create a wonderful piece of work.

Blake infused this book with of feminist themes such as the objectification of women, equality within love, and respect in relationships. The first theme I found particularly interesting as Three Dark Crowns is based in a largely matriarchal society, and the way each female character encounters and deals with objectification is very interesting.

If you are looking for a story about family, sisters, feminism, love, and heartbreak, and you aren’t scared of a story infused with a more serious and darker tone, this is a good book for you. Brilliantly written, and very engaging, I really am so glad I read this one. 5/5.

Deep Themes in “Defy the Stars” by Claudia Gray

“Defy the Stars” by Claudia Gray is a fun sci-fi book with deeper themes that give it a lasting weight.

Well-written, and packed with deeper themes, Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray is a book that highlights Gray’s strengths as a YA science fiction writer.  The first in a new series, Defy the Stars was somewhat predictable, but proved to be a good, casual sci-fi read. It doesn’t go too in-depth with the world building or complicated science-y things, so it isn’t overwhelming for the beginner sci-fi reader.

One of the things I love about Claudia Gray’s books is her use of themes. Even though each of her books has a fun, exciting plot that makes for good fun, there is always more weight to her stories that makes her books more important than just a fun story.   Defy the Stars explores themes of what it means to be human, the importance of nature, the existence and definition of love, and how far it is ethical to go in our attempts to assert independence. Gray also introduces the idea that there are many sides to every story and truth may not always be one dimensional.

Gray explores these themes through interesting characters like Noemi: a pilot and soldier of the planet Genesis in their war of independence from Earth; and Abel: an advanced android from Earth whose self-awareness and mental and emotional capacities blur the line between android and human. In pushing each of these characters to their limits physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, Gray creates a story worth reading.

If you enjoy any element of science fiction combined with a strong romance subplot, any of the aforementioned themes, or any of Gray’s earlier works, I would definitely give this book a chance. 4/5.


Fate and Ethics in “A Thousand Pieces of You”

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray was a fast-paced book perfect for lovers of both sci-fi and historical fiction, which means it was perfect for me. While it maintains an air of general predictability throughout, there is enough originality and creativity in the setting(s) that I would definitely recommend it.

Claudia Gray is an excellent writer. She makes it so easy to just fall into her stories and to stay there until the very last word. I really enjoyed this book. And while I don’t think it is her best work, or most creative, it is well done, and very very fun.

The premise is this: Marguerite Caine is the daughter of two brilliant scientists who have discovered not only the existence of other dimensions, but also the technology needed to visit these alternate universes. When Marguerite’s father is murdered, and the suspected murderer flees into another dimension, she follows suit in order to find and kill him.

The downfall of this book really is its predictability. By the first chapter I had the general plot pretty much figured out. It did throw in a few fun surprises at the end but nothing too game-changing.

Despite all that, I am planning to read the two sequels in the coming weeks. The characters were appealing, and the science-y adventures were too much fun. I’m still amazed that I just read a book that contained cool futuristic technology and a beautiful historical romance.

The romance was definitely one of the highlights of this book. I am a sucker for a good romance line, and this was a good one.

Gray also brought up some excellent ethical questions about the main character’s actions in other dimensions, and the morality of taking advantage of experiences that should have been taken by someone else.

This book also contains themes of fate and destiny, and whether a person is made up of experiences. Whether a soul can be significantly changed by experiences or if they will be the same person regardless of any changes made to their previous experiences.

It is these kinds of themes and ethical questions that makes this book stand out from other YA fiction. They add depth to the story and help readers learn to think about the story on a deeper level.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it. (4/5)

I’m in love with Roshani Chokshi’s “A Crown of Wishes”

Almost immediately after I finished The Star-Crossed Queen, I picked up Roshani Chokshi’s sequel A Crown of Wishes and was not disappointed. If anything, I liked it even more than its predecessor. That’s not something I get to say very often.

Starring Maya’s sister, Gauri, this book focused more on how people change through sacrifice, experience, and how life is not necessarily about getting everything you want, but about the stories you make and leave behind.

This book had beautiful characters that changed and developed naturally, but dramatically, from beginning to end. I love a good character-driven story, and this one is a good one.

The romance too was wonderful. Gradual, slowly realized, and full of exquisite wanting and waiting, Chokshi masterfully created a believable and enviable relationship that will keep you on the edge of your seat and a smile on your lips.

Overall, this book left me wanting more in the best possible way. I can’t wait to read whatever Chokshi comes out with next! 5/5

Desire and Indian Folklore in “A Star-Touched Queen”

Roshana Chokshi’s A Star-Touched Queen was a New York Times bestseller for good reason. Steeped in Indian folklore and myth, Chokshi’s YA fantasy novel brings a world of romance, heartbreak, intrigue, and untold secrets to life.

Maya, a princess who has been told from birth that she was cursed to bring death and destruction to those around her, knows she will probably never marry. However, her father’s desire to bring hasty end to a years-old war sets her up to marry a man who not only seems to love her, but who draws out parts of her she didn’t realize she had. As she sets out to untangle her new husband’s mysteries and the mysteries of the seemingly empty kingdom over which he rules, she discovers her own immense power, desire, and a past she didn’t know she had.

Told with vibrant descriptions, I fell in love with the world and the characters almost immediately. The characters drew me into their lives, their dreams, and their desires. I found myself passionately involved in relationships and outcomes of even the smallest characters. Maya in particular, really kept me invested. Her struggle to know who she is, in and out of a relationship is very relatable. It can be so difficult to know where you stop and your partner begins and vice versa, and the fear of losing yourself can be very real.

I loved this story of love, desire, and trust, and would not only recommend it, but I would urge you to read the sequel too. It was AWESOME!


“Jane, Unlimited”: A New Novel by Kristin Cashore

Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore is an interesting novel about the significance of seemingly insignificant choices. Written in a style originating from the choose your own adventure story, this third-person-present POV novel follows Jane, a young woman lost in her life, in her sexuality, and her finances. Working at a bookstore and barely scraping by after dropping out of college, Jane runs into an former wealthy acquaintance, Kiran, who invites her to come to her family’s private island for as long as she wants to stay.

As she arrives, several mysteries unfold, and Jane is faced with a seemingly innocuous choice, which leads to several dramatically different endings.

While I found the premise of this story intriguing, I was disappointed in the actual product. While well-written, Jane Unlimited felt too much like a very thorough and drawn-out writing exercise.

Each ending was unique and original, but it was disorienting to have to go back after each ending to the same place after such exciting developments, not just with plot but also with characters.

It was difficult to go from reading about a Jane who, for example,  loves and cares about a dog, about her art, and is confident in who she is, to a Jane who is insecure, unsure about everything, and doesn’t know who to trust again. I really enjoyed the first ending because there was a great lead up and it flowed really nicely and everything felt natural. The ending had payoff. But when I had to return to the middle of the story again, I had forgotten a lot, and the Jane I was now reading about was not the Jane I’d come to love, and I had to start over again. By the third ending I was feeling pretty fed up, and I really only skimmed the fourth (which seemed to be the weakest of the endings anyway). But the fifth did feel a little fresher, and I enjoyed it almost as much as the first.

On another note, there was quite a bit of language, mostly at the beginning of the book, but sprinkled throughout. So if swearing bothers you, I would pass on this book. Also, as a general note, the main character struggles a little bit with figuring out her own sexual preferences throughout, and this does play a part in character development, if not plot.

I enjoyed Jane’s character, and many of the others, but it was hard to keep my feet under me throughout this book as it seemed like a realistic mystery novel at the beginning and transitioned to a highly fantastical novel by the end, and kept jumping back and forth in the in-between parts. It felt inconsistent and just plain odd. I would rather have had it all realistic or all fantastical.

The jumping back to the middle annoyed me as well. I would much rather have had a linear story that incorporated all the plot points, and mysteries that the various endings addressed. But maybe “choose your own adventure” stories just aren’t my thing.

Overall, I would rate this a 3/5.