Author Spotlight: Rainbow Rowell

This was really supposed to be a Wednesday post, but life got in the way as it usually does when you’re an adult and have to do adult things, like take care of  yourself and clean up after yourself. Throw in a potty training toddler and the whole mess just escalates. We’ve been working on the potty training thing for a while, but I’ve stepped it into high gear because I’m in my second trimester of pregnancy and I really would like to have one out of diapers before I plop one into them. But I digress.

It’s debatable who actually introduced me to Rainbow Rowell. My mum read her book, Fangirl, shortly after I had given birth to my son and immediately told me that the main character was basically me and “I had to read it this very second.” I don’t know how much experience you guys have with newborns, but nothing ever happens “this very second” unless you’ve recently changed a soiled diaper. Then your child thinks it’s in his or her best interest to immediately soil that diaper. That’s the only type of thing that happens this very second in those days.

So I made a mental note to check it out, added it to my goodreads, and went on my merry way. With my mum, she needs to tell me to read a book several times before I actually take her seriously because, as a librarian, she likes basically every single book she picks up. I’m not kidding. She is a crazy person. (But I love you!) I am very much obsessed with books, but she even tops me. She, oddly enough, only referenced Fangirl half a dozen more times over the next year, but it took my friend Laurie reading it to actually jog my memory about it.

Laurie loves books, maybe as much as I do. But she is calm and collected and makes recommendations rarely enough that when she does, I take note. So when we sat down for our kids’ weekly playdate and she excitedly told me that the main character in the book she was reading eerily reminded her of me, I listened. Lo and behold, it was Fangirl. The same book my mother had vehemently demanded I read almost two years before by this point. I did what any sane person would do when two different people from two different groups of your social life insist that they found your book doppelgänger: I found myself a copy of Fangirl. And I read.

And read, and read, and oh my gosh they were right! I then quickly moved on to every single book Rainbow Rowell had written to that point. I devoured her books. My husband had a hard time getting me to do anything but read until I had read them all.

Do not get me wrong, I play pretty fast and loose with my heart when it comes to books and authors. I’m dangerously optimistic but it really pays off. In this case, Rainbow Rowell has helped me dive into a genre that I’ve been avoiding because I’m close enough to thirty to see it, and while the age doesn’t scare me, I feel like if I dive into adult novels, I will be “kicked” out of my YA genre I hold so near and dear to my no-where-near-thirty heart. I do realize that this is a ridiculous notion and that I need to drop it, but it’s been hard. Rowell really assists in that because her adult novels haven’t felt adult. Her main characters don’t seem that much more worldly than I am and I can really relate to the emotions that they feel.

If you struggle like I do with breaking out of the YA genre but would like to dip your toes, I recommend her. She is well written, has very relatable topics, and her writing style is very lived in. I can appreciate an impeccably scholarly writing style as much as the next reader, but I do tend to fall in love with books that feel more like a conversation than a history lesson or a humanities class.

Her books go as follows:

Attachments (2011) – “Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . “ Beth and Jennifer know their work email is monitored to prevent inappropriate use. Everyone knows, because it’s company policy. They just can’t bring themselves to care. Lincoln, the computer guy, can’t believe his job has been reduced to monitoring emails. This is not what he was expecting when he applied to be an “Internet Security Officer.” He knows he should turn Beth and Jennifer in, but he can’t help but be entertained and drawn into the snippets of their lives they reveal via email. Even worse, he knows he shouldn’t be falling for Beth, even though he’s never met her. What would he even say? “Hi, I read your private emails every day, please dump your boyfriend and go out with me?” A book set in 1999 to the very early 2000s, it’s funny, gripping, and sarcastic. I found it very easy to get drawn into Beth and Jennifer’s world and Lincoln was a very likeable character despite how creepy I probably made him sound before. This falls into her adult genre.

Eleanor & Park (February 2013) – Park, decently popular, comfortably middle class,  keeps his head down, and never truly reveals what he is really like outside of the eight hours he spends with his peers every day. Eleanor, wrong clothes, wild red hair, wrong side of the tracks, and picked on by the popular kids. It could be chance that when she sits down next to him, she just happens to share his interest in comic books. Or that she will love any song he suggests to her. Fate doesn’t work for sixteen year olds, right? Set over the school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park explore what new love feels like for teenagers who  come from vastly different sides of social and economic circles. It’s heart twanging, both in a good and bad ways. I will admit I cried when I read this. I’m not actually much of a crier when it comes to books, but this one had me in its grips. I think it’s my second favorite book she has written. This falls into her young adult genre, but parent’s of teens beware! There are some pretty mature themes that run through this book so I would recommend you skim it or at least google the themes before giving the go ahead to younger teens.

Fangirl (September 2013) – Twin sisters Cath and Wren are Simon Snow fans. The entire world is a Simon Snow fan, if we’re really being honest. But for Cath, it goes one step further. She is a fangirl, and she is really good at it. She and her sister enveloped themselves into the Simon Snow fandom when they were kids and it got them through their mother leaving them and their father. Cosplay, reading, re-reading, writing fanfiction. It’s what they lived for growing up and now Wren seems to be pulling away from the fandom scene but Cath doesn’t think she can and doesn’t want to. Now that they are headed to college, Wren informs her sister that she doesn’t want to be roommates, that she wants to branch out on her own. Cath finds herself completely on her own, with a stranger as a roommate and completely outside her comfort zone. To top it off, her roommate is a party girl with a charming, completely distracting and totally off-limits boyfriend who hangs out entirely too much and she has a professor who thinks that fanfiction is killing the modern world, a handsome writing partner who can’t take his nose out of the book he is writing, and a loving but fragile father who hasn’t ever been on his own. Can Cath pull this year off on her own? Does she even know how to make it in a world where her twin doesn’t want to be her twin and Simon Snow doesn’t sit at the apex of everything she does? More importantly, does she want to make it in a world that is nothing like what she was expecting? My similarities to Cath run fairly deep. I grew up with a Harry Potter obsession and, if forced to think about it, it was probably a coping mechanism for the awful middle school experiences I had. I’ve never really gotten into the fanfiction area of writing because it feels wrong for me to write outside of what’s considered canon. I don’t mind reading it, but I’ve always felt a stronger pull to my own original characters that take up space in my head. However, I can absolutely relate to Cath’s personality and inner voice. Her anxiety issues? Yep. I loved this book. This falls into her young adult genre, but it’s a gentler tone and has a calmer theme running through it than Eleanor & Park.

Landline (2014) –Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.Maybe that was always beside the point. Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her. When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…Is that what she’s supposed to do? Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened? I will admit, I stole this summary from Goodreads but I am having a hard time not letting my mean sarcastic tone bleed through on this one. Landline was my least favorite of Rowell’s books. It’s just as excellently written as her previous books, but I don’t have a lot of patience for Georgie. Maybe it’s because as a married woman, I could point out half a dozen reasons why her marriage is failing and Georgie struggles to see even one and at some points in the book, even seems to suggest she isn’t at fault. Or maybe it’s because I grew up in a family where family trumped career every time and so I don’t understand the drive to make your career a top priority, even over your flesh and blood. Honestly, I think it’s probably both those reasons. Don’t let me deter you, it really is a very well written book that deals with the very real struggles of a couple trying to hold their marriage together, I just didn’t have the compassion I probably needed to like Georgie. This book falls into her adult genre.

Carry On (2016)-This is a spin off from Fangirl where there is no reference to Fangirl at all. Rather, this is a Simon Snow story. Enough readers were curious about Simon Snow when reading Fangirl that Rainbow Rowell explored that world as well, and this book is the result. I haven’t read it yet, but I do have it on tablet just waiting for me to pick up. I’m pretty sure that this also falls into her YA genre as well.

So yikes, this post is a mammoth. If you made it all the way to the bottom, congrats! If you skimmed, I don’t blame you. Have you read Rainbow Rowell before? What did you think? If not, does she seem like an author who could spark your interest? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading!

Angie

 

 

 

 

 

 

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