My name is Jessica, and I break my own rules… right from the start. No one ever accused me of doing anything by halves.
We’ll reread two books each per month, we said. We’ll keep up manageable TBR’s, we said.
But… I really couldn’t help it.
If you know me at all, you know that Rainbow Rowell is one of my favorite modern authors. Rowell’s writing style is so unique, and she has this uncanny ability to evoke truth that speaks to my soul. As soon as Laurel and I came up with the idea for this blog, I knew I wanted to start with a Rowell book.
The real question was: which one?
Attachments is delightful. Eleanor & Park breaks my heart. I adore the whimsy of Carry On.
But Fangirl and Landline… oh, I love both of these books with my very core. I love them for very different reasons. It was impossible to pick.
So I didn’t.
Let’s talk about Fangirl.
This book is a coming-of-age story about Cather Avery, a college freshman who is learning to live apart from her father and twin sister for the first time. This book is a love-letter to fandom. It examines first love and family and mental health. Heck, it’s the first time I read anxiety on a page and recognized something of myself, right here:
Cath couldn’t control whether she saw Levi on campus. But she could worry about it, and as long as she was worrying about it, it probably wasn’t going to happen. Like some sort of anxiety vaccine. Like watching a pot that never boiled.
I do this.
(My anxiety isn’t exactly like Cath’s, but I wish this book existed when I was eighteen. Seeing myself in Cath could have been a game-changer.)
Cath has a complicated family. Her mother abandoned her, her single dad is bipolar and bad at taking care of himself, and her sister is self-destructive. Often, Cath is busy worrying about everyone else. Her family gets better by the end of the book, but it’s not ‘fixed’. It just is.
Cath is already a successful fanfiction author before she steps foot in her first Creative Writing course, but she has a lot to learn about being a writer. She learns the hard way about what it means to create her own worlds – and who to trust with her words.
I also just love how this book handles fandom. I always relate to how much Cath loves Simon Snow. She dives into fanfiction because she doesn’t want to let the characters go. Cath grew up with Simon, just like so many of us grew up with Harry Potter. (I mean that literally – Deathly Hallows came out when I was 17.)
And then there’s the romance. You can have all of the New-Adult alpha males, but I’ll take Levi any day. Crazy-haired, farmer-boy, barista Levi with his unrelenting smiles and kindness and his own deeply-hidden insecurities. It takes awhile for Cath to admit her feelings, and she’s so unsure of herself, but Levi is patient. He doesn’t expect anything from her that she isn’t willing to give. YA needs more boys like this!
Even though Fangirl is delightful and the perfect winter read, I just couldn’t stop there. On to Landline.
Landline is the story of Georgie McCool, a television writer who gets the chance to pitch a pilot to a network executive just before Christmas. When she tells her husband that they need to cancel their trip to Omaha, he leaves anyway, taking their daughters with him.
When Georgie stays with her mom for the first time in years, she calls her husband from a landline… one that she quickly realizes isn’t connecting her to Neal today, but to Neal fourteen years ago. To him the week before he proposes. Georgie must decide what to do with this chance.
And I love it. It’s one of the most realistic portrayals of marriage I’ve ever read.
You don’t know when you’re twenty-three. You don’t know what it means to crawl into someone else’s life and stay there. You can’t see all the ways you’re going to get tangled, how you’re going to bond skin to skin.
This book just gets the way marriage irrevocably changes your life, tying you to your partner until your life doesn’t make sense on it’s own – even when it’s not exactly the life you imagined. Georgie struggles with the fact that she loves Neal, but she’s afraid he might be better off without her. And she can’t get in touch with the modern Neal on his cell phone to talk to him about it. She starts to question everything, and still decides, ultimately, to fight for her marriage.
Fighting for a tough marriage instead of giving up is so badass. I love it.
I cheer the moment when Georgie refuses to cheat, despite the fact that her handsome best friend and writing partner practically throws himself at her (forever proving that he’s a selfish jerk). I love that, given the chance, Georgie affirms that she can’t live without Neal and Alice and Noomi. She jumps on a plane to Omaha – on Christmas Eve, no less – with nothing but a dead cell phone! It’s like the end of a holiday movie.
(Plus, we get a very small cameo of Levi and Cath that always has me grinning like an idiot.)
I might just get a tattoo of an antique rotary phone someday – that’s how much I love this book.
Do these books have rereadability? Yes.
This wasn’t a surprise, because again, I cheated – I’ve reread them before. But both elicit emotions that stand up after multiple reads – and get better each time.
Landline can even be read in “real time” starting on December 18th, and it might just become my new holiday tradition.
Have you read Fangirl or Landline? Let us know in the comments!