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