Those who have read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl are already familiar with Simon, Baz, Agatha, Penelope, The Mage, and the Insidious Humdrum. This story opens on Simon’s eighth and last year at Watford School of Magicks. As he continues his battle with the Insidious Humdrum, Simon will learn things about all of the characters listed–including himself. This last year at school promises to be the most exciting one yet.
Okay, first let me be the one to clarify something that has SERIOUSLY been getting on my nerves these last few weeks. Simon Snow is not “basically the Harry Potter of the Fangirl world”. I have seen this statement in multiple reviews for the book (tsk tsk) and it’s not true. It’s not true because Harry Potter exists in the Fangirl universe as well. Cath mentions Harry Potter–I remember because it was such a startling revelation that Harry Potter and Simon Snow would exist in the same world.(even the second time I read it, I was still startled). Thus, Simon is actually a Harry Potter competitor. In the Fangirl universe, both of these series’ exist. So…yeah. Now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest I feel a little better.
Okay, so on to the book. It’s kind of hard to wrap your mind around the concept simply because of how meta it is. It’s a book about fictional characters created in another book whose character writes fanfiction about them…confused? Yeah, so was my husband. Rowell stated in an interview with Time Magazine that she wasn’t writing as the fictional author Gemma T. Leslie or as Cath. With that in mind, I began reading. This book was…unexpected. Since Rowell said she wasn’t writing as Cath, I imagined some parts would be different. *Minor Spoiler* Mostly, I didn’t anticipate Simon and Baz being in a relationship since that was pure “fiction” from Cath’s mind. Honestly, it didn’t even feel necessary to the story to me. I’m all for diversity in YA, but I feel like that diverse characteristic needs to be important to the plot or helps to define the character in some way. I think that’s where true diversity comes from. If I was writing a book and made my main character Asian, but didn’t tie that in to anything else, I wouldn’t really classify it as being a diverse book. That might just be me though.*End Minor Spoiler*
Supporting characters were okay. I liked Penelope quite a bit, but Agatha was a total bore and a lot of the characters felt a little flat. There was very little character defining/development which kind of fits if this book is intended to feel like the eight book of a series. Overall, I’m not sure how I feel about that concept. Rowell does a good job of explaining past events without making it seem overwhelming, but it still feels like we’re missing some background knowledge. It literally is how you would feel if you picked up the last book in a long series and started reading.
The plot was okay. Again, it seemed like we’re missing some of the build-up that would have come from seven previous books. We don’t have any real reason to dislike the “bad guy”. Without all of that build-up, the plot and conflict felt flatter than I think they were meant to. Also, there were some “key plot twists” that didn’t come as a surprise to me because I’d read Fangirl so…I don’t know. This whole book left me feeling a little confused.
Overall, there’s nothing really inherently wrong with this book, it just didn’t blow me away like I would expect it to. If you’re a big Rowell fan, go ahead and give it a read. If you don’t end up reading it though, I wouldn’t say you’re missing out on much.
Overall Rating: 3
Violence: Moderate. Some fight scenes, some gore.
Language: Heavy. Similar language to Rowell’s other books.
Sexual Content: Mild. Some kissing and other non-explicit talk.
Smoking/Drinking: Mild? Honestly, I’m having trouble remembering. But Mild at most.