So, this book is set in 2011, and I was getting married that year at age 25. Not strictly my teen years. However, I’m counting it for two reasons – 1) 9/11/2001 is key to the plot, when I was an actual sophomore in high school, and 2) though the Harry Potter books exist in this universe, Simon Snow is very very very obviously a Harry Potter analogue, and the penultimate book in that series was released in 2005, when I was in my first year of college myself.
For that reason, while I loved this book the first time I read it, the nostalgia was almost painful. Much like Cath, I was withdrawn at college due to a recent loss and a sister-like friendship ending, I had met a guy with a slow-burn chemistry between us (reader, I married him), and the Harry Potter series was EVERYWHERE (even if I was just an enthusiastic fan as opposed to a superfan fanfic writer). It felt like re-reading my life, but with the energy of a new relationship, with my writing actually going somewhere, with the opportunity to undo all the bad choices. With all the promise of the future returned. (I think the Rowell book I read after this was landline, so maybe she felt that way writing it too?)
The second time around was more enjoyable, being able to actually enjoy Cath’s story on its own merits. The comeuppance of ***REDACTED*** makes me happy every time I read it, I could again and again, in part because Cath’s passivity really reminds me of me and I could see being taken advantage of. Funnily enough, my nostalgia pick was less nostalgic the second time around. And when I see the comparisons to my own life, they’re happier – I regained the closeness with that sister-like friend. I married my slow-burn chemistry guy. And writing these reviews is basically weight training for a novel idea I have. So here’s to the future, there’s always some left, which is more or less the conclusion of this book too.