Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (2013), narrated by Rebecca Lowman
This is one of the very best representations of starting college that I've ever read. I love how out of her element Cath felt. I love that she stocked up on power bars and peanut butter so she wouldn't have to face the dining hall. I laughed out loud at the scene in which Levi told Cath about some alpaca mittens knit in Ecuador that he bought outside the Student Union. It's a little thing, but really took me back to my own early college days.
The romance is the best. Where the hell was Levi when I was young enough to date him? I don't think a boy so perfect actually exists, but he is very convincing. Cath, on the other hand, seemed weirdly prudish. I could accept it if there was an explanation, but there wasn't - for us, or for Levi, who continued to be extremely patient. I mean, they barely kissed. Still, experience their romance slowly growing was the most wonderfully satisfying part of the novel.
On a more serious note, Rowell did a great job of handling difficult issues like Wren's excessive drinking, their father's mental illness, and the abandonment of the girls by their mother. That's a lot of serious issues for one book, but they are expertly woven into the story.
The audio was fantastic. At this point I'm pretty sure I could listen to Rebecca Lowman read her grocery list. She's incredibly talented at making subtle differences in the characters' voices, enough to tell them apart but not enough to be awkward or exaggerated. Unfortunately, I found myself drifting off during the Simon Snow excerpts and I don't know why. They were short and interesting, and narrated by a British man (except in those instances where Cath was reading them out loud). I think the change of pace between the regular story and the excerpts was just tough for me on audio.
Another excellent novel from the author of Eleanor and Park. I'm going to go back and read (or listen to) The Attachments, which she published a couple of years ago. If you like YA books, Rainbow Rowell should be required reading!
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