The story follows the unlikely friendship of two young women forged via fan fiction and message boards, and is told entirely in texts, chats, and blog posts.
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.
It’s my turn to host authors Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson for the Gena/Finn blog tour! On today’s stop, I’ll be featuring an exclusive Q/A with the authors as well as a review of the book (spoiler: love). Thank you so much to Raincoast Books for working so hard to organize this event, to Hannah and Kat for participating, and to all the other bloggers who have participating in the blog tour.
Many thank to the lovely folk at Raincoast Books for arranging to ask my question to Hannah and Kat – and to the authors for being kind enough to take the time to respond!
I’m so impressed and awed by how you captured the level of support people obtain from
their on-line relationships, especially in times of distress. The on-line world—and
specifically the world of fandom and fan fiction—has developed into a place for people
to put themselves out there and to connect with others. Why and/or how do you think this
has developed to be what it is today? What role is it assuming or created for itself?
KAT: In Gena/Finn, the title characters get to know each other quickly, but sort of
blindly. Thanks to their journals and fan works they get to see into each other’s hearts
before they even know each other’s names. There’s a lot you can say against the anonymity of the internet, but I think a really positive effect is that it lets people reveal things about themselves that they might not be too secure about. And when you find someone who shares your weird fangirl feelings, anonymous connections can turn into real friendships.
HANNAH: I think another thing is that the people you know online don’t know the people in your real life. If you confide something in your IRL best friend, there’s always the chance it’s going to get back to your mom, or your sister, or your ex…It can be nice to unload on someone who has no connection to other people in your life, whether that’s for a big dark reason or just because you don’t want people in your real life to make fun of you. That’s why it’s so scary when your mom gets a Twitter account.
While there’s been a huge shift in the past few years in the attitudes towards online fan clubs and ‘fandoms’, I’m always surprised to meet people who still look down on individuals who discuss their favourite TV/movie/music/gaming via online forums. While I may not be part of an intense fandom such as the Supernatural , Harry Potter, LOTR, Star Wars, K-Pop, Arrow/Flash or other communities, I have many friends who are and who continue to find support and encouragement for their own writing (fan-fiction and otherwise). As someone who has found a group of diverse, intelligent and wonderful friends via my online blogging about books, I’m puzzled as to why anyone would deny themselves the opportunity to discuss something they love with others who feel the same way. As a result, I was pulled right into the Gena/Finn from page one simply because these are my people.
Gena/Finn is an amazing story that captures the emotional connection and friendships that online fandom can provide. In this case, Gena/Finn highlights the ability of online fandom groups to provide authentic and healthy female friendship support structures, while providing opportunities for fans to write, discuss, critique and disagree in a safe and positive space. While the participants might disagree on the specifics of each other’s fandom (Tylergirl vs Jakegirl), the mutual love of the source material doesn’t flag. Gena and Finn are two unique and interesting characters who are looking for something from their participation in the “Up Below” community. Finn is struggling to find herself post-graduation, unsure of her relationship, her career and even her basic life choices, while Gena is looking forward to a bright future, coming off a strong academic and social high — at least, on the surface. I loved how this book gave us multiple layers of each character, and how we slowly came to realize that the on-line façades were hiding secrets.
PRIVATE MESSAGE TO _EVENIF
So, stop me if this is weird, but some stuff is happening and I can’t really talk to any of my three-dimensional friends about it. Do you mind if I unload a little? I understand if not. I just feel like you get me, or something. Am I crazy? Don’t answer that.
Gena broke my heart. Her vulnerability and her past history was devastating, and you began to realize that her past really had affected her – and how badly did I want to reach into the pages and tear into her parents??? When I learned about her past and I began to see her inner thoughts, I found I was reading on the edge of my seat, knowing that something wasn’t right. Watching her spiral (no spoilers) gave me the same sense of helplessness that Finn was feeling. Finn was almost uncomfortably relate-able to me: not knowing what to do with myself, where to go, or if the person I was with was the person I was supposed to be with forever. Her honesty and desperation (even in her draft emails) was refreshing and all-too-familiar. However, her determination to be there for her friend – for the person she loved – made me love her as a character, and her ability to support Gena was awe-inspiring.
The slow build of their friendship into something more was exceptional. I could see how they began to see each other in a different light, although I do wonder if Finn didn’t see her relationship with Gena as an escape from the difficulties of her regular life, much like she did with her time in the “Up Below” fandom circle. I loved how they both recognized that they could love multiple people, and that love comes in so many different forms. Finn acknowledges that she loves both Charlie and Gena, and I appreciated that she didn’t try to define how she felt, or to qualify it. I could feel Finn’s anguish about Charlie, and how she was torn between her feelings for him and Gena. I also saw it as interesting how each character stayed true to themselves, even as their lives were falling apart. I was a little surprised at the ending in some ways, as it seemed to step back from the relationship that had been so carefully cultivated, but I can also see why Finn made the decisions that she did.
It’s also a fascinating look for anyone not familiar with that world as the entire narrative is communicated via blog posts, text messages, IM chats, Tumblr-style posts, emails and other online conversations. I loved how the in-the-minute exchanges gave us authentic emotional responses from each character, and how later in the book the online presence via blog entries contrasted so sharply with how each character was hurting internally.
This is a funny, strong, emotional and intense read, but I loved how it showcased how the online fandom communities could provide so much strength – and so much anguish – to individuals in their times of need. There’s something so reassuring about putting something out on the internet, knowing that someone, somewhere might read it and feel the same way. The friendships you build online over common interests and obsessions (and I use that term deliberately and kindly) are as real as the ones we make in real life, and can often be stronger. Gena/Finn’s epistolary structure makes the story flow in real-time, and the reader is drawn into their worlds immediately. This is a must-read for anyone who has ever had fandom feelings, or for anyone who loves realistic fiction with an emotional wrench.
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour! A copy of Gina/Finn was provided by the publisher as part of the Blog Tour in exchange for an honest review. Gina/Finn is published by Chronicle Books, and is distributed by Raincoast Books in Canada. It may be pre-ordered from Amazon, Indigo and your favourite indie bookseller. ISBN: 9781452138398, 345 pages.