By Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
To Sum It Up: Genevieve “Gena” Goldman and Stephanie “Finn” Bartlett’s shared love for a TV show brings them together online. They form an instant rapport that quickly develops into friendship both online and in real life. All of the time Finn spends texting, emailing, and chatting online with Gena starts taking a toll on Finn's relationship with her steady boyfriend, Charlie, who isn’t aware of how deep Finn’s devotion to her fandom runs. When Gena desperately needs a friend by her side, though, Finn can’t turn away, even if it means not having a future with Charlie.
Review: I don’t remember the last time I read a book in a day, and a contemporary to boot. The narrative format of Gena/Finn is quite unique; the story is told through blog posts (with comments!), fanfics, texts, emails, chats, and even good old-fashioned handwritten journal entries. I’d never read a novel structured like this; I’ve read an epistolary novel or two, but Gena/Finn includes just about every form of digital communication. As a blogger, my interest was definitely piqued when I opened the book to a blog post, and once I started reading, I couldn’t stop.
The novel’s format is a winner, and perhaps because the blog posts and email/text exchanges aren’t all that long, the book is a very compulsive read. I confess that I’m usually a little skeptical of books that go out on a limb with the narrative structure because I’m afraid they’re going to end up being a gimmick that overshadows everything else. There is no such issue with Gena/Finn, and I’m really impressed with the creativity that went into telling this story in a rather unconventional fashion.
Gena is a boarding school student who’s about to graduate and attend a prestigious university. Finn is a college graduate who followed her boyfriend to California and is working jobs that help pay the bills but which don’t utilize her degree in art history. What Gena and Finn share is a hardcore love for a TV series called Up Below. Both post online about it, and that’s where they meet. They click immediately, united by their passion for their fandom. I completely understood the instant connection; it’s the same thrill I feel every time another book blogger says, “Hey! I LOVED that book, too!” There’s something very comforting in knowing that there’s another person out there in the world who loves the same thing, whether it’s a book, a TV series, a movie, etc., on the same level that you do, especially when your family and friends greet you with quizzical looks whenever you fangirl over Book X or Movie Y. Yet again.
Gena/Finn features lots of hilarious snark, which I very much enjoyed. The book takes on a heavier tone later on, but the shift doesn’t feel abrupt, and the turn of the plot underlines just how strong Gena and Finn’s friendship has become. This is a cleverly written novel that grabbed my attention straightaway and didn’t let go. It was also a very relatable book; truly the greatest thing about blogging has been the friendships that have formed over the past few years. There’s quite a bit of resonance to be found within the pages of this book for anyone who’s part of an online community, as well as a poignant story told in a very unique way.
All in All: This book was a super fast read, and an enjoyable one. My inner nerd especially loved all of the details that went into the book’s formatting, like the vertical scroll bar graphics on the edges of each page that accurately marked your progress in the book. Clever!