Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson, via Chronicle Books, out soon.
[I received this book from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review; this did not affect my opinion of the book whatsoever.]
There was a lot of squealing happening inside and outside of my head while reading Gena/Finn. A lot of ‘yaaaas’ and ‘siiiiiigh’ too. I really enjoyed this book. I felt like the heart-eyed emoji after. It hit all sorts of feelings buttons and ticked off all kinds of boxes. I was hesitant going into reading it, because writing a book as just messages and blog posts is a different kind of challenge than a novel, but I forgot that worry just pages into reading. This is the kind of book that I want to hug, the kind of book that I read so quickly (in a couple hours) I look forward to reading it again, the kind of book that I want to share with all my friends.
Gena/Finn compiles text messages, emails, blog posts and gchats between two fangirls who live on opposite sides of the U.S. They met each other through Tumblr via fanfiction blogs dedicated to a tv show (that sounds mysteriously like Supernatural). Gena writes fanfic about what she’d rather see happen between the two male protagonists, and Finn is an aspiring artist who mostly sticks to lurking in the comments. The girls hit it off immediately once they start messaging and instantly get personal. Sometimes it’s just so much easier to talk to strangers about things like sex, work and life’s worries. It’s not long until they get to meet each other though, and their relationship is forever changed after that.
It can be tough to represent how millennials communicate these days without sounding like an old person just learning the lingo. But Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson get it right. I have no knowledge of their prior work, but it seems that the way Gena and Finn write is the way the authors write at least casually online between friends – it seems it came naturally to them; they found a project they could make work for that kind of communication. Everything is so real, honest and comedic. I laughed at a comment someone wrote on one of Gena’s stories: “oh my godddddd exactly what I needed, whenever you go into tyler’s head like that it’s like…gaaahhh i don’t have words i am not a writer lolol” (because that’s basically the way I talk to my friends on Facebook messenger) and when Finn emails Gena “the fuck is lacrosse?” It’s simple things in the internet language that can make things so funny. So, not only did the authors ace the kind of format the book is in, but they aced the language too, making it a top choice if you are curious about unconventional new adult books.
I wish I could be friends with Gena and Finn in real life. They are such lovely characters – at this point in their lives they are so vulnerable and sweet, everything makes a big impact. Everything is confusing and exciting at the same time. Their friendship progresses in such a caring way that it makes you think fondly of your own friendships. Their relationship (and the story) reached places I didn’t expect (hint hint: queerly!), and wanted more details on, so my only thing is that I wished the book went on for longer. I can see why it ended where it did but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! I can’t go much farther in this getting-to-be-vague explanation without spoilers though, so once you read it and want to talk, oh you will want to talk, know that I am here!
Gena/Finn will undoubtedly be high on my list of favourite books in 2016. I feel all sentimental just writing this post. If you have any interest in fandom, internet culture and books entirely about strong female relationships, then please pick up this book.
Now, as part of my involvement in the blog tour, thank you Raincoast Books!, I got to ask the authors a question!
I know you guys wrote as if the characters are talking back and forth online, (so cool) but can you tell us who wrote which character and how you got into their heads?
HANNAH: The short answer is that I wrote Genevieve and Kat wrote Finn. There are times when we wrote little bits of each other’s – for example, there’s a brief text conversation between Gena and Finn in a chapter that’s otherwise Finn and Charlie, and Kat wrote Genevieve’s half of that conversation as well because she was knocking out that chapter. When it comes to other characters, mostly I wrote the ones that populated Gena’s: Alanah, John, Zack, her parents and teachers, and Kat wrote Finn’s: Charlie, her parents, her sisters. So a conversation between Genevieve and John would have been written all by me, but Gena and Charlie would be half-me and half-her.
KAT: These characters differ from a lot of others I’ve written in that I felt like I was in their heads from the beginning. We both went into the book with a very clear idea of who Gena and Finn were, and figured out what the plot was going to be based on that. Which is a lot like fanfiction, now that I think about it – start with well-developed characters and then come up with a story about them.