Tag Archives: Anna

Attachments 36-40: My Very Cute, Kind, and Compassionate — and Also Sort of Funny — Guy

Finally!  Lincoln gets a small victory in these chapters when Beth’s Cute Guy’s identity is confirmed.  I like that the following chapter is just No, no, no.  I like that he’s overwhelmed by the news.  When I first read the book, I think I suspected he was the Cute Guy when he mentioned fixing a computer for the guys in ads, but I was definitely excited at the reveal both then and now.  You’re handsome, Lincoln!  Women think you look like the Brawny towel man!  What a high compliment.

This bright spot for Lincoln is very necessary for the readers after the devastating chapters of his break-up with Sam.  Their conversation at the park makes me so sad — his desperation mixed with his knowing acceptances just makes it that much more heartbreaking.  Rowell (it feels too formal to call her by her last name, but it feels dismissive not to.  I don’t know) perfectly captures those moments in the breakup when you crave the physical intimacy, while knowing it will still feel hollow.  Lincoln knows he could kiss Sam in those moments, but then when he does, it’s not what he wants.  He can’t settle for I love you or for always.  She’ll never be able to give him as much as he wants again.

But back to cheerier back half of the chapters.  Even though it does contain reference to a dog’s death, I always assume Lincoln’s sweet interest in the conversation with Dorris is one of the things that Christine swoons over.  He’s just such a nice guy!  The kind of guy who you know will be eager to meet your friends and go to dinners with your family.

Other Things

  • I am the Beth of City Hall.  I don’t try to work so much later than everyone else, but knowing that I don’t have to be in at a certain time means I always sleep in at least 30 minutes more than I should and take extra time in the morning and sometimes take a long lunch to walk through the Common and back.  Then, there I am, working until at least 6:00 when everyone has left by 4:30 or 5:00.
  • There wasn’t enough Jennifer and Beth in my chapters, confirming that, although I love swooning more than most things, I in this one for the friendship.

A Recommendation

Do you want to read a novel that also has a sad scene where one half of a couple thinks their love is enough for a great life and the other doesn’t?  Great news, I have the super sad Me Before You by Jojo Moyes to recommend.  If you want to be incredibly emotionally destroyed, start it only two days after seeing The Fault in Our Stars.  But actually, while sad, it’s really great.  Curl up with it during the next summer thunderstorm.

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Attachments 21-25: October, baptize me with leaves!

Merry October! I love Beth’s speech about the month that begins Chapter 25.  As I said to Christine on the phone, it reminds me of the scene in You’ve Got Mail when Tom Hanks tells Meg Ryan he wants to buy her a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.  Like possibly everyone, I love fall.  I love this speech!  Just as Lincoln is more attracted to Beth through the conversations, I’ve always loved Jennifer much more.  I love her Baby Gap addiction (mostly because, real talk, I have one, too. I don’t want babies but I love overpriced baby clothes!  Thankfully, I have a niece who I can buy tiny jumpers and jackets and dresses for) and I just think if we met, we’d be incredibly close friends.  But here, I love Beth most.  I especially love that she’s in such a good mood because she wasn’t having a great day and October cheered her out of it.  I like this attitude.  I like that she starts off with her love for October and eventually gets to her problems with Chris.   It’s like when you have a terrible morning so you put “Crazy in Love” on repeat on your ipod and by the third time, you’re so happy, mostly because of the comparison of your moods and your own ability to change it.  

In these chapters, we also see the sweet, romantic sides of both Beth and Lincoln.  When you read or watch romantic comedies, the two people you want together aren’t together for the majority of the time.  Sometimes they don’t get together at all.  So while we always infer that they have the same happily ever after plans, we never really know it.  Here, we see Beth and Lincoln as gushing, sweet, romantics who want nothing more than white-picket endings.  Lincoln loves the idea of a first love.  Beth loves the idea of being a stay-at-home mom with a dentist husband.  They want simple and true.  My love of female friendship makes the Beth-Jennifer relationship the real swoony one for me in this story, but these chapters make me start to get pretty swoony about Beth and Lincoln.

What else? What else!

  • Lincoln’s remembrances of high school and Sam are like a sneak peek into the Rainbow Rowell YA-mastery of 2013.
  • I love the idea that everyone in the news room wears glasses.  One of my friends was the editor of our college’s newspaper and sometimes I would go visit her at the office, and it seemed like a pretty great place to be.  They had adorable grammar signs on the wall!  
  • My parents may have once had an “addicted to school” conversation with me.  

A recommendation: I have been reading so many YA novels now that my semester is over AND listening to even more of them as audiobooks while working at City Hall.  Unfortunately, all of the books that I’ve read were previously recommended to me on this website by Emily.  I will tell you that my favorite was Anna and the French Kiss, which you must immediately read, and the best audiobook was the first of E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver series, The Boyfriend List.  The voice acting in it is so great.  Instead, I will suggest that you watch You’ve Got Mail and listen to my favorite fall songs (both those about fall and those I listen to in fall): Autumn SweaterAll Too WellThe Walking SongIt Might As Well Rain Until SeptemberHey, That’s No Way to Say GoodbyeSuburban WarSons and DaughtersOn the Radio, and You Are What You Love. (I probably should have just made you an autumn songs mix.  Maybe someday.)

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Attachments 6-10: Things Lincoln is Good At

I wrote all of this post earlier in the night, and then I accidentally closed the browser with no draft saved. I don’t know how this happened, but it is tragic. So, for the second time, Attachments 6-10:

Lincoln is both alone, surrounded by no one, and also constantly surrounded by women. His mom, his sister Eve, Sam, Jennifer, and Beth crowd his physical space, his mental space, and his emotional space. These women (or the knowledge of them, the memory of them) are challenging Lincoln to push past this moment in his life, to take time for introspection and motivation and action. Lincoln tries to be passive, but the women create energy; they propel him into motion (or at least try to).

Lincoln has gone as far as to look up Jennifer’s title, because he of course already knows of Beth, hoping to familiarize himself with the people behind the emails that he’s reading. It’s in that familiarity that Lincoln is confronted with a moral dilemma. He is no longer “Just doing his job” when he reads the flagged emails. Now, he’s playing favorites, choosing sides, trying to not scare off the women. He rationalizes his behavior by saying that he’s not even sure what their emails are flagged for, but actively not give them a warning is admitting to himself that he is instead reading their emails for pleasure not work. It’s the worst aspect of his job, and he must confront his own enjoyment of it and what that means exactly.

To make matters worse, this job is the main focus of Lincoln’s life, partly because of the strange hours and partly because of his lack of a social life. When I was 25, I moved home, so I really empathize with much of his conversation with his mom about her packing his lunch. Yes, you can try and live at home only for the free rent, but don’t parent-child roles always resurface? We see, in small pieces, how Lincoln’s mother can be demanding of his attention, mostly in his remembrances of his time with Sam. She both feeds into his commitment to the rut he’s in, by encouraging him to do less for himself, but also tries to persuade him to make a change, to quit his job, to rejoin those living in the daylight.

As we see in his conversations with Eve and his previous relationship with Sam, Lincoln’s current life is probably far from the one he pictured himself having. He excelled at being a student, knowing that he loved academics, but unable or uninterested in seeing what was past formal education. Eve desperately wants him to have not just a job but a career, hoping he will take the opportunity to plan for his future, just as Sam once did. Sam’s list of things that Lincoln is good at was telling — as a narrator, he’s rarely sharing his good qualities with us. But it seems that older Lincoln is not so different from high school Lincoln. Making a change, moving forward, taking action are not on the list. Lincoln doesn’t like his job, but he passively accepts the creepy associations with reading someone’s email. He doesn’t want to fully immerse himself in a life lived at his mother’s, but he takes the dinners she cooks for him and allows her life to revolve around his meals. Even when considering a social life, he admits that he didn’t do anything to make Sam fall in love with him. She did so on her own.

The third item on the list of things that Lincoln is good at is avoiding the issue, and is these chapters, he shows off his expertise.

What else? What else

  • I love the small story about Lincoln and Eve’s mom previously having a bong. It explains so much, and yet I want to know SO MUCH more.
  • I think we can all agree with Beth that shopping for bridesmaid dresses brings out the absolute worst in humanity.
  • I also don’t find Tom Cruise attractive, so I am sold on the idea of this conspiracy.

A Recommendation:
Although I wasn’t focused on Jennifer and Beth in this post, I’m going to take a cue from their beautiful friendship and how they help each other deal with the impending doom of major life milestones and recommend Playing House on USA. It’s a new show starring Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham from the tragically cancelled Best Friends Forever. The show is hilarious and sweet and treats best friendship as the beautiful and incredible relationship that it is. Watch it!

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Fangirl 37-38: It’s never over… it’s Simon.

Most love stories end when the couple in question finally gets together or, often, gets back together.  Most coming-of-age stories end there, too, or at a moment when the narrator realizes that they’ve changed, that they’ve grown.  Fangirl ends with the release of the last Simon Snow novel, highlighting that, out of all the relationships in the book, the most important is the one between Cath and her fandom.  And, as in most stories, this important relationship is the one that’s been tested frequently, the one that’s changed the most.   The relationship’s strain was reflected in Cath’s fighting with Wren, its boundaries were tested in Cath’s Writing Fiction class, and its importance was questioned in her relationship with Levi.

Cath and Wren’s relationship is deeper than any series of novels, of course.  But Simon Snow is one of their main touchstones, which Wren discards so casually, knowingly hurting Cath.  It makes me SO happy to learn that Wren cries at the release, that it’s Wren who expresses the eternal connection that the twins will have with Simon.  Cath really does have her girl back — and that means she has her co-writer and favorite beta back, too.  But in these final chapters we see Cath’s other writing talent flourish.  She leaves the world of Simon Snow behind to write her short story, one that is lauded and praised, as we all knew it would be.  She realizes that she isn’t just Magicath; she’s a writer capable of creating her own universe and populating it with developed, interesting characters.  We’ll never know if the literary award was as meaningful to receive as “Best in Snow” or “Tastes Like Canon,” but I’ll assume that she’s pretty proud.

Are you shocked that my favorite part of Cath’s relationship to the fandom is the way it changed to let Levi in?  Are you surprised that I spent the majority of this time swooning over Cath reading the novel aloud to Levi?  If you’ve never followed a series and waited, waited, waited for the next book to come out, then maybe you can’t understand what a big deal this is.  I love the Harry Potter series.  I really, really love the Jessica Darling books.  But, mostly, this meant that I read Megan McCafferty’s blog a lot and once had a “Me Yes Me” shirt and went to some Harry Potter release parties.  I didn’t have a community of friends and a secret career as a fic writer.  I didn’t have fan art or commemorative busts.  And yet — and yet — I don’t think I would read the final novel in a series aloud to someone.  That takes so long!  I need to know what happens!  If anyone ever doubted Cath’s love for Levi, you can see it right here.  The old Cath would consider reading the eighth novel to be at the absolute top of her list (and it’s still important. She doesn’t consider reading her short story or any of Levi’s very sexy offers until after they’re finished reading), but here she is, slowing down and taking the time to include Levi in the experience.  It’s not just Cath and the fandom anymore.  But it’s not Cath leaves the fandom behind, either.  It’s perfect.

What else? What else!

  •  So, the ending with Baz and Simon — are we supposed to assume Gemma was influenced by all of the slash about the two, the way that this season of Sherlock threw in so many winks to its fanbase in love with Sherlock and Watson’s love?  That’s what I thought.
  • I love that Reagan goes to the release party.  Of course, I do.  It’s the Reagan fan club over here.
  • Can you imagine being one of Levi’s roommates, barely knowing his freshman girlfriend and then running into her while she’s crying with her only explanation being that she’s writing a short story? What a great and strange interaction that could have been.

A Recommendation

On the plane from Pittsburgh to Boston on Sunday, I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan and I loved it.  The novel will speak to anyone who has longed for more from a book — that there really is a deeper meaning, a community existing beyond the page, a way to keep reading once the story is over — the way that I think people involved in fandoms must.  Also, two childhood best friends communicate to each other in a short hand that is derived from their favorite fantasy novels, the way that Cath and Wren must also have a secret Simon Snow code.  It’s a fast read (just one plane ride!) and a bit of a caper, and I would absolutely recommend it.

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Fangirl 28-30: A Scare Can be Valuable

When Cath was in the waiting room at St. Richard’s, waiting to see her dad, she was worried, of course.  She was anxious to know how bad things were, she was upset that she hadn’t been able to stop it, but she wasn’t scared.  She knew the drill; she had seen it before.  And she had Levi, who stayed when she needed him to and left when she asked him to.  Here at St. Elizabeth’s everything is different.  She’s never waited in the hospital because her twin sister has alcohol poisoning.  She has never been the person who couldn’t answer simple questions about her sister’s friends and routines.  And she’s waiting with her mom, who is there when she doesn’t want her to be and leaves when Cath asks her to stay.  The nurse tells Cath that Wren only had a scare and suggests that scares are valuable, allowing someone to realize that their behavior is destructive and needs to be changed.  Here, it seems that the scare is valuable for Cath maybe even more than it is, at least immediately, for Wren.

Cath makes sure her feelings are heard so much in these chapters, maybe more so than in any other chapters in the books.  She has honest conversations with her dad and with Wren.   And I’ve never been more proud of Cath than when she yells at her mom.  Finally, she’s not letting her silence speak for itself — she’s looking her mom in her eyes and telling her how wrong it was to leave.  She makes sure she understands how wrong it is to leave now, again, when her once-abandoned daughter is still in the hospital.

Cath decides, in the dark hospital room as she crawls into bed with her sister, to not stay mad.  She was scared at the prospect of losing her sister, of, even worse, losing a sister that she had already let slip away.  I love the conversation between Wren and Cath the next day.  Cath doesn’t have to forgive Wren — some relationships are beyond the act of accepting an apology.  The apology is always already accepted; the bond is never not in tact.  Not only does she want Wren back into her life, but she wants to start actively caring for and looking out for Wren, to not respond to being pushing away by drawing back.  I spend most of this novel swooning all over Levi, but in these chapters, I realize that the relationship I care about most is the one between Wren and Cath.  I feel so relieved when they decide to be back in each other’s lives.

What else? What else!

  • I love how Rainbow shows the similarities between Wren and their mother in these scenes — the clenched fist, the way they sway their hips when they walk — after Cath described her own similarities to their dad through the novel
  • This novel has many funny lines, but one of my favorites is when Wren and their dad are first talking about what’s next and Wren’s only defense is that she’s eighteen: “I’m eighteen!” Wren shouted.  Cath thought this was probably a bad strategy. (354)
  • Lest you think I wasn’t swooning all over Levi in this chapters:  He was in the waiting room!  He texted Cath to write dirty fan fic about them!
  • I love the small scene when Cath realizes that Wren is still reading her fanfiction.  My heart breaks and melts all over it.

A Recommendation:  Perhaps because my dad works in the drug and alcohol field, I’ve always been pretty interested in addiction and alcoholism, what it means to drink alcoholically (as many college students do), and how drinking so quickly becomes part of one’s identity, especially in college.  In between my freshman and sophomore years, I read Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas.  It’s a memoir by a 24-year-old, after she has decided to quit drinking, about her relationship with alcohol from when she was 14 through the present day.  I loved it and find myself still referencing and contemplating many of the issues it brings up, especially with the relationship between girls and drinking, specifically.

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Fangirl 19-21: The One Who Cried

Poor Cath.  Winter break has certainly not been the easiest for her.  When I was a freshman in college, winter break pulled me out of the community that I had fallen in love with, the new standard of always being surrounded by people that I had quickly adjusted to, and the strange schedule of an 18-year-old who loved to stay up late and eat a weird 2 am meal of soup and candy and threw me back into my parents’ quiet house, where I was often alone and always told that I was staying up too late (my mom wakes up when I brush my teeth late at night.  Her body is so upset by people staying up too late).  For me, it was terrible and I spent a lot of time listening to my discman, creating angsty away messages, wishing I was back at Etown.  But poor Cath!  She would have wanted to go home for a month to spend time alone, to focus on Carry On, to spend time with her dad, to avoid Levi.  And just as she’s about to enter the home stretch of a trying semester, Fucking Kelly calls and everything changes.

Cath spends much of this first half of the novel worrying about her dad and Wren.  Her worrying, for good reason, is pushed into overdrive over break with her dad at the hospital then adjusting to life back home and Wren going out too much and staying out too late.  Cath tries to arrange her life, even in the smallest ways, to watch over the two of them.  She waits up for Wren when her dad doesn’t.  She checks for signs of her dads stability, sadly wondering what she could have prevented when he’s in the hospital and then nervously adopting a strict vigilance over his schedule once he returns home.  But neither wants to be the center of Cath’s worry.  Wren cruelly pushes her away; her dad tries to make her understand that her worrying makes him feel worse.

When she’s not worrying about those who are trying, for reasons good and bad, to create distance from her, Cath is stressed about those who don’t want to create distance.  After Levi (swoon) rushes out of work to drive her to the hospital, he finally confronts her with his confusion over her seemingly-abrupt change in feelings.  Despite proclaiming, loudly and repeatedly, that she wants nothing to do with her, Cath’s mother sneaks a Christmas present to her via Wren, finding a way into her life.  Everyone is disappointing Cath.  When Reagan calls and promises to keep Levi away, to make Cath’s room a space where she can hide from these feelings, I felt so relieved.

What else? What else!

  • When Emily and I were writing Reading Jessica Darling, we joked that we spent so much of our posts praising Bridget that the blog might as well have been called the Bridget Propaganda Project, and it looks like Reagan in the Bridget of Fangirl.
  • Que Lastima! I never really felt the loss of Abel, but I am sad that they are missing their favorite Christmas desserts.
  • Cath wondering around her house alone, taking inventory of all the signs she and Wren would have seen, would have acted on, is one of the saddest scenes in the book to me.

A Recommendation

The scene that I found so affecting, where Cath walks around her empty house looking for clues about her dad’s mental state, reminds me of Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang, a novel about the children of performance artists who spent much of their childhood being part of their art.  When Annie and Buster return as adults to live with their parents in their childhood home, they have to confront what effect the importance that their parents placed on art first and children second had on their childhood.

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Fangirl 10-12: Secret, Dirty Fanficiton

You guys, these chapters are the best!  We have Emergency Kanye Parties, diner hash, fanfiction, and so much Levi.  These chapters make me so happy that it’s hard to remember that some pretty upsetting things are the catalyst for most of the great parts.

Cath has her first academic disappointment, which can be incredibly daunting and make everything seem so hopeless.  Class, especially fiction writing, was the one aspect of college where Cath had control, and the world of Simon Snow fanfiction is where Cath is her best — her most confident, most creative.  In one terrible meeting, both Cath’s academic performance and her fanfiction are challenged — no wonder she needs an Emergency Kanye Party.

The Emergency Kanye Party is so perfect.  It shows us how much the twins used to lean on each other for support, how much Cath is missing in her distance from Wren.  It allows Cath to step outside of her role as a twin and to realize that she is authorized to call an Emergency Kanye Party.  As silly as it sounds, realizing her own agency without Wren is a pretty big deal.  And, lastly, for those of us who are always already swooning over Levi, it allows the two to have fun together, to let Levi into Cath’s world for a moment.

The rest of the events in these chapters follow those two relationships, exploring Cath’s growing distance from Wren and her closeness with Levi.  It’s so heartbreaking to realize, along with Cath, that she was the “wrong C” in Wren’s phone.  Not only does Cath not have Wren to call on when she’s having an emergency, but she can’t even reach out and help Wren in her bad situation (mostly because Wren refuses to believe it is a bad one).  Here, Cath finally starts to let someone else into her world.  She shares her worries about her sister and her writing with Levi over diner hash, which I want to eat so badly, and she is rewarded by his sincere concern and enthusiasm.  Although I’ll never prefer the Simon Snow parts of the book to the Cath ones, I love how Cath is able to start to make connections to people in college through her fanfiction.  And having a cute boy lay on your bed and beg you to read to him?  Please.  What a dream.

What else? What else!

  • I always forget until rereading how upset Cath is that Levi would drive a truck.  The price of gas alone!  It’s a nice way to show that she can be a character who is very stuck in her ways and not always able to understand someone else’s point of view.
  • The drunk leering at twins is so gross, and Levi is rightly appalled.

A Recommendation

Since this is the first time that Cath reads her fanfic in the story, I figured I would recommend some fanficiton.  I don’t read what most people would think of as traditional fanfic, like the kind Cath writes, but I do like when novels play with stories that I love.  My favorite is The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly, which is about Lulu, Emma, and Sophia Atwater, who live with their mom in London, and are descendants of the March sisters.  Not only do their personalities match those of the original little women, but Lulu finds her great-great-grandmother Jo’s letters in the attic, and the lives of the March sisters are woven into the Atwater sisters’.

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Fangirl 1-3: Why Do We Write [Fan] Fiction?

I’m excited to be starting the discussion of Fangirl because this was my favorite read of 2013.  I loved and was so deeply moved by Eleanor and Park, but so much of the novel was so hard to read and so sad to consider that I didn’t want to immediately reread the book once I had finished it.  Instead, I listen to the Smiths and cried and thought about it.  Once I finished Fangirl, I reread it.  And then I reread it again.  I have reread this book five times already.  I must admit that since the first reading, I haven’t read anything that was in italics, anything from Simon Snow or its fanfic, so I’m excited to revisit these aspects of the book with fresh eyes.

I love Fangirl because not enough novels (or television shows or movies) examine the college experience – so often they discuss life before college or immediate after.  But, more than just Cath’s freshman year of college, this novel is an examination of a writer finding her voice, and I am a total sucker for novels about writers.  It’s one of the things that I love most about Little Women, How Should a Person Be?, Sloppy Firsts, my favorite show, Girls, and my favorite written thing ever, A Room of One’s Own (as you can see by this list, I’m particularly interested in women writers).   On the first day of Cath’s writing class, her professor asks the class why they write fiction, and Cath’s answer is to disappear.  For eighteen years, Cath was able to disappear into the Avery Twins, without having to define herself outside of Wren.  She easily disappears into MagiCath, her fandom persona, where she is confident and sought-after and acclaimed.

But it’s hard to disappear at college, as Cath soon realizes.  You don’t have your own space, and you are almost never alone.  In the halls, the dorm bathroom, and in the classroom, Cath notices how much the other students are dying to make eye contact and connections with each other.  They want to reaffirm their existence, have someone else notice them and pay them attention, but Cath wants the opposite.  To achieve this, Cath tries to take up as little space as possible.  She curls up into the corner of her bed.  She tries to be as quiet and undetectable as possible when Reagan is in the room.  She shrinks away from situations where she might make a scene, like the dining hall.  After contemplating all that may go wrong when getting dinner for herself, Cath counts her protein bars and jars of peanut butter and decides that “if she paced herself, she might not have to face the dining hall until October” (15).  I will never recover from how sad this makes me.

What else? What else!

  •  I have the exact opposite reaction that Cath has to new situations – I psych myself up for how amazing everything will be, without stopping to consider how scared I might be, so it always hits me like a brutal surprise.  This has resulted in me crying and needing my aunt to come visit me my first Saturday in college and me collapsing on my bed in tears, refusing to walk around UBC’s campus with my parents, after they helped me move into my apartment in Vancouver.  A happy medium between the two of us is probably ideal.
  • I love the way Levi just jumps into a conversation about hamburgers with Cath as soon as he sees her.
  • My freshman roommate and I didn’t dislike each other, but we didn’t really bond until about March and were never very close friends.  I was so jealous of the Wrens and Courtneys of my freshman class.

A Recommendation

I’ve started reading fic: Why Fanficiton is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison and it’s really interesting, especially the parts about megafandom, like Harry Potter and Twilight.  I was vaguely aware that fandoms and fanfiction existed –- my (eventual) college roommate, a stunning blonde from Sweden who is the biggest nerd in the best way, introduced me to Mugglenet and sometimes we would watch fan videos on YouTube that centered around Draco Malfoy (yes, I did give her this novel and yes, she did love it) — but I’ve never been immersed in it.  Both Fangirl and Rainbow Rowell’s tumblr have made me interested in learning more.  If you feel the same way, then I would definitely recommend checking it out.

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Eleanor & Park 36-40: A Tragedy in That Gym Suit

Eleanor and Park are officially a committed couple.  They’ve kissed on the bus.  Eleanor has a rapport with Park’s mom.  They’ve spent time alone in Park’s room.  Even Eleanor’s siblings know it.  Their relationship, here, is happy and hopeful, and a relationship like that can make you brave.  It lets you take risks, when you might otherwise have felt insecure, emboldened by your partner’s affections, not caring about what anyone else might think.  In the glow of their relationship, Park begins wearing eyeliner to school, asserting his own identity.  When questioned by his mom, Park says that the eyeliner makes him feel like himself, and he tells Eleanor that his dad is mad that Park doesn’t want to be more like him.  Park feels accepted, wholly and completely, by Eleanor and that makes him bold, bold enough to appear more like himself, even if that means he’s not like everyone else.

But part of being in a relationship is letting the other person see your non-favorite parts of you.  For Eleanor, many of her non-favorite parts are parts of her body. The closer that she and Park are, the harder it is to separate her feelings for Park from her feelings about herself.  She worries that “there was no safe place on [her] torso” (234).  She doesn’t like the parts of her body that fall between her neck and her knees.  Eleanor is fat and Eleanor doesn’t like that she’s fat.  She can only assume that Park hated what he saw of her in her gym suit, that he thought the reason his cassettes broke was because he was making out with her, specifically.  Luckily, we have other viewpoints on her weight, including Rowell’s, and Rowell doesn’t let it become more than it should be.  Yes, she’s fat.  But, also, she’s beautiful and smart and sensitive and moody.  Her weight doesn’t define her, and it also isn’t an obstacle for her to overcome.  It’s simply a part of her person, like her curly hair or love of comic books.  This treatment of her weight shouldn’t be rare, but it is.

We don’t have a clear picture of how fat Eleanor is, and we don’t need to.  But many readers want to know, as if quantifying her weight is important to understanding her character.  Rainbow Rowell has written an excellent piece on her blog that addresses this.  I immediately knew what Eleanor looked like, though – she looked like me, or, specifically, what I looked like in high school.  Like Eleanor, I defined myself by my weight.  I was constantly afraid of what others thought of me, constantly comparing myself to other girls.  Eleanor cannot grasp how Park dated Tina before her because, as she thinks,  “there aren’t even roads between Tina and [her]” (236).  Now, twelve years older than I was in high school, I can only wince in painful recognition at this type of thinking.  I wish that I had had this novel when I was in high school.  I wish I had read about a fat girl who fell in love with boy who liked the Smiths, a boy who thought she was beautiful, not because he could look past her looks, but precisely because of her looks.  I wish I had read about a fat girl who wasn’t magically given self-esteem the first time a boy showed interest in him, who could both be nervous about her body and still want his hands on it.  I wish I had read about a fat girl who was allowed to be other things, who didn’t lose weight when she was happy because it would be so unfair to let a character be both happy and fat.  I wish that I had had Eleanor then, but I’m still pretty happy to have her now.

A Recommendation:

It’s so hard to find a story about an overweight girl that allows her to be more than her weight or doesn’t require her to go on a weight-loss journey.  If you know of any, please list them in the comments!   Until then, watch Ugly Betty, a show that deserves to be revisited.  You won’t regret it, I promise.

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Eleanor & Park 21-25: This Isn’t for Me

So much of Eleanor & Park is about protection.  Like so many first-love stories, Eleanor and Park continue to find a sanctuary in the other, a place of calm and trust and acceptance.  They are each other’s protective forces, just by sitting on the bus, by being someone to smile at in English class, through comic books and mix tapes and phone calls.  But sometimes you can’t be enough protection; sometimes you don’t understand or cannot fully consider who is hurting who and how exactly to stop it.  Does it sound like these chapters left me sad? These chapters left me sad.

Park wants to protect Eleanor from both the taunting on the bus and the judgement of his mother, but, more than that, Park wants to protect himself.  He cares about what his mother thinks.  He is bothered by what Steve thinks.  “This isn’t for me,” Eleanor argues, and she’s right.  Park wants to protect Eleanor, but he also wants to stand up for himself — to not be worried about how they will react to him about his new girlfriend, to not have to listen to the loudest punk to drown out their voices.

Eleanor, also in this chapter, tries to protect herself, but is also willing to risk herself to protect others.  She calls the police of out fear, but her subsequent worry at what might happen to her when Richie finds out seems more terrifying then the possibility of a gun to her.  And in this chapter we see why — we see the little to no reason that Richie lashes out at her, the violence with which he throws the typewriter, the terrifyingly predatory way he repeats that she was asking for it.

Maybe this is partly why Park’s bruised and swollen face made her want to cry but also kiss him.  She knows how scary it is to throw yourself into violence to protect someone else, to protect yourself.

What else? What else!

  • I’m fascinated by Park’s dad because I just don’t know how I feel about him.  Sometimes he seems a little jerky, sometimes he’s the sweetest — I just don’t know.  I need to really examine my feelings and beliefs on this one.
  • Are we meant to think that the other things that Richie has in the house is pot?  Tell me what to infer!

A Recommendation:

I must admit — I’m very sleepy and need to go to bed and didn’t prepare anything to recommend. So, I’m going to cheat and suggest something that doesn’t really tie into the chapters: The Fosters.  I’ve been bothering Christine to watch this ABC Family drama over text for days now, mostly because Rosie O’Donnell is on it and we need more Rosie in our lives.  The show is about a family with one biological son, two adopted children, and two foster children, who just joined the family.  It always make me cry because it’s so emotional and perfect.

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