Book Review: Gena/Finn – Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

gena-finn-book-review-book-blog

Title: Gena/Finn (2016)
Author: Hannah Moskowitz, Kat Helgeson
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 287 pages
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads Description

Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie. But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following.

Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.

Review

Another fandom book? I’m in! This was pretty much my thought when I picked up this book at the library several weeks back. I was a huge fan when I was in my teenage years — I’d write fanfiction, voraciously reblog fanart on Tumblr, analyse every scene for the purposes of shipping, yell “I CAN’T EVEN” to my fandom friends… believe me, I’ve done it all. Gena/Finn is one of the best representations of fandom culture I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, and it made me feel so nostalgic.

Gena/Finn is about two girls — Gena and Finn — who bond over their love for a buddy-cop TV show called Up Below, ostensibly based on Supernatural. The story is told through a combination of blog posts, comments, chats, text messages, journal entries, poetry, and other formats. Usually mixed-media books struggle when the characters finally meet, but I didn’t find that to be the case with this one — the format instead made the story really easy to get into and the pages fly by. 😍

I am a fan. It’s not just something I do, it’s something about the way I’m wired. […] I’ve always had characters who live in my head and mess with my heart and tell me stories, and I love it.

As far as fandom representations go, Gena/Finn did very well. Moskowitz and Helgeson portrayed both the best and worst sides of fandom: the online friendships, the finding “your people”, the safe space, the support, the shipping wars, the creators-hate, the character bashing. The tone was on-point, and the terminology is 100% reflective of my fandom experience. This is also the first book whose bits of fanfiction I actually read — they were short enough (±300-400 words) that they didn’t lose my attention.

Surprisingly to me, this book actually has a low rating on Goodreads (3.47), which I think might have something to do with the fact that it was marketed, I believe, as an LGBT+ book but then turned out to not be one. There are LGBT+ elements, but this book only touches upon sexuality briefly and is more about online friendships than anything else: how easily they develop; how a shared love for one thing leads to a deep, strong bond; how the umbrella of anonymity lets people discuss things about themselves that they can’t even tell their real-life friends and family.

the truth is
loving someone isn’t a period
it’s a semicolon
and the choice you make is what comes on the other side

The other thing that people seem to have issues with is how starkly the tone of the book changes. I’d agree with this — for all the fun, fandom talk and fangirling happening in the first half, the second half of the book deals with much darker, more human themes. Some of these themes did come across as too coincidental, perhaps even out-of-place, but I didn’t mind it that much.

Now, the ending is very abrupt, leaving lots of questions unanswered. Another 50-100 pages could’ve made this book much more satisfying, I think, and a deeper exploration of female sexuality would also combat the misleading marketing. Despite its flaws, though, Gena/Finn won me over with its very accurate and realistic portrayal of fandom and fangirls and how it explores complex character relationships. 🙌

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42 thoughts on “Book Review: Gena/Finn – Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

  1. That sounds great! I was a deep into a couple of fandoms when I was a teen and even met my hubby on a forum about a TV show. I wrote terrible fanfictions and found shelter talking to people far away from my hometown. Here we go, nostalgia stuck, haha! I had not heard about this books but it sounds so spot-on regarding fandoms and online relationships that I’m curious! Fab review!

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    • That sounds like such a cute story! What TV show was that, and do you guys still watch/follow it? 😂

      Every fan experience is probably different, but this book honestly has the closest representation to my fandom years – the jargon is SPOT ON and the ~feel~ of it makes me so nostalgic. It’s also very easy to read bc of the format.

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  2. Such a great review! I put this book on my TBR a while ago – I remember loving the synopsis and hearing great things about friendships in that story just as well. I kind of lost sight of it among my massive TBR, but I’m thrilled you read and love it. I need to put this up high on my TBR now 🙂

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    • Yeah, it didn’t get as much hype as some other books, did it? I’d have forgotten about it too if I didn’t stumble upon it at the library, and now I love it so much. I think I’m going to get a copy just so I could relive my ~fandom days~, to me it was just that accurate. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like an amazing book, I’m definitely adding it to my to-read list. The only fandom related book I’ve read before is Fangirl but from the sounds of your review Gena/Finn delves a lot more into the actual fandom and all the ups and downs that come along with it.
    I’ve never really been in a major fandoms, I tend to stay on the edges of a few but one of my friends is and she talks about some of the downsides, the hate and the character bashing among a few. Seems like a lot of drama but also a great place to meet likeminded people.
    Great review Reg, I hope I enjoy this book as much as you have, I’m definitely intrigued by the mixed-media format as well. I love books like that! 😀

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    • I have such fond memories of fandom that anytime a book is advertised to have that element, I’m like yep, on my TBR it goes! I liked Fangirl, but I have to say that I liked this one quite a lot more, especially in terms of fan representation.

      And yeah – it can get pretty heated! I guess put a couple of really passionate people in one room and you can get disagreements, haha. As a person I’m very non-confrontational and all “live and let live” though so I can’t remember ever getting into even one argument. 🤔

      Thanks, Beth! I hope you pick this up. 💝

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      • From the sounds of your review it does seem like Gena/Finn is more focused on the fandom side of things than Fangirl was. Not that I didn’t enjoy that book as well! 😀
        Yeah I’m very non-confrontational, but I guess there are a few people in every fandom that aren’t.
        That’s all right. ❤

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  4. Yes! I’m always looking for more fandom books. We talked about this on Instagram once but I was also big into fandoms and fanfiction writing way back when. I loved those days and even met my best friend (who I’m still friends with 10 years later) due to a fandom. So, I really love the whole friendship aspect of this and I’m definitely adding it to my TBR. Great review, Reg! 😊

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    • That’s a great story! I didn’t really end up meeting anyone from fandom bc most of my online friends were spread out all around the world, but I wish I had – it’d be so fun for sure. I hope you check out this book! It was fun and nostalgic for me. 💗

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  5. The issues you mentioned are exactly the ones that made me drop this book from my TBR, although I was originally so excited about both the fandom subject matter and the epistolary-ish narrative style. (I’m a sucker for epistolary-ish stories.) Glad to see you gave it four stars, though! Maybe it’ll go back on my TBR eventually. Great review, as always. =)

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    • I’m a sucker for epistolary-ish stories too! Just (usually) very effortless to read yet still so much fun. Yeah, it’s just more of a fandom and friendship story rather than anything else, I feel – that worked for me, so I hope if you ever give it a chance, it’ll work for you too. Thanks, Liam. 😊

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  6. A TV show based on Supernatural aka my favourite. Sign me up. The format of the book sounds fun and quirky. Fangirl is the only book I’ve read that looks at that Fandom culture so I think it’s time I gave another one a chance to shine. 😀

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    • I liked this one better than Fangirl! I feel like it got my fandom experience down pat – just super realistic and super nostalgic for me (though obviously people’s experiences with fandom will be different). I hope you give Gena/Finn a chance. 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have nominated you for the mystery blogger award.. :)(rules are on my page) i think your blog is really interesting and i enjoy reading your reviews.

    happy blogging

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  8. I’ve been fan of Moskowitz’s work since reading A History of Glitter and Blood but this review has convinced me that I need to pick up this light collaboration between her and Helgeson because it seem like a lot of fun. Thanks for also clarifying the marketing of the book and the presence of the LGBT elements + a focus on online friendships, I can see how expectations can shape reading experiences.

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    • I’ve actually never heard of Moskowitz before this! Would you recommend A History of Glitter and Blood? It sounds… unpredictable, haha.

      And no worries! I read the reviews because I was curious about what people think, and it seems like many were disappointed by the lack of (strong) LGBT elements. It’s definitely more about friendships and fandom than anything else, and I really enjoyed that part. 💕

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      • Yes to unpredictable! I recommend A History of Glitter and Blood if you’re in the mood for a fantastic narrative with an unreliable narrator. The narrator questions their own memory of the fae war + aftermath as they tell the story but I can also understand if it throws some readers off since it did take me a few chapters to realise what was happening. It also has much more LGBTQ content present.

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  9. So people are marking books down for saying they have LGBT themes and then they don’t have enough of one? What the hell is wrong with people? It’s about love: who cares? And if the book is good isn’t that important, too?
    Sorry, sometimes I just don’t understand how people rate books. Great review! Sounds like a beautiful book. 😊

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    • To be fair, I only read a couple of reviews that said so… and I think misleading marketing does mean that people sometimes pick up books they wouldn’t have wanted to read otherwise. It’s not a perfect system, but to be honest I can kind of understand the disappointment. 😛

      I liked this one, though! I read it for the fandom and that’s what I got.

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