The premise of this book intrigued me with it being a full story set in a pseudo-Harry Potter world dreamed up to be a novel series in another book (Fangirl) whose protagonist wrote fan fiction. So it’s a fictionalisation of a book series that was Harry Potter with the numbers filed off. And our lead characters here are Harry & Draco archetypes (called Simon and Baz) with the idea being that in the Fangirl-verse everyone wanted them to be in a relationship rather than enemies.
So it’s an interesting idea but I found I struggled with the book. You are catapulted into the story in Simon’s final year at school so there’s a combination of infodump and assumption that you can fill in the blanks as scene setting. I also just didn’t find the writing style of short chapters from character’s perspectives engaging as it bounced around a little too much for coherence. The main characters of Simon, Baz, and Penelope were engaging enough and there was enough insight that you could read between the lines to realise how Simon and Baz really felt about each other. But the main dramatic through line of Simon’s destiny and the magical conflict felt lacking as this book is like stepping into the last book of a long series without having access to the others.
I think this book does well to trade on a love of fan fiction – both with the Harry Potter ideas, and book titles that trade on Supernatural (with the sequel being Wayward Son…) – but for me that just highlighted that I’ve read better fan fiction on AO3. Rainbow Rowell is a decent enough writer, it’s just that I left this story not feeling like I needed to read the sequel and that’s as much as I can say. It’s not bad but it’s not going to be on my top 10 list for the year