Two social media accounts.
One shared, passionate love of a Supernatural-esque TV show.
One happy, scary, confusing, confounding, life-changing relationship.
Gina/Finn is an epistolary novel in the vein of the AIM-based narratives of Lauren Myracle’s ttfn, ttyl, and l8r g8r, about the power of fandom and fandom-love a la Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. Gena (_EvinIf) is an East Coast, college-bound fic writer. Finn (finnblueline) is a broke college grad who just moved out to the West Coast with her boyfriend and an on-off fan artist. The two of them run into each other online and bond over their shared love of the TV show Up Below and favorite character Jake and his FULL-OF-FEELINGS relationship with Tyler. What starts out as a friendship based in shared fandom love develops into a whirlwind, terrifying, and meaningful connection neither of them could ever could have predicted and gets put to the test by a life-changing tragedy.
Gena/Finn is a story about fandom, a story about relationship, and a story about the power of communal, shared love of stories and characters weaving in and out of people’s lives.
Me personally, I’m only tangentially involved in fandom. I’m on Tumblr, where I reblog gifsets and meta of my favorite shows and movies and books. I sometimes read fic. I hardly ever attend conventions. (Too crowded!) I don’t cosplay. I don’t see movies the night they release (oftentimes I miss them completely), and I obtain all my books and comics from the library rather than purchase them the the day or week they arrive. (I do, however, put the ones I want on hold months before they’re released.)
This is all to say that even though I wouldn’t call myself a fangirl, or even someone who is actively involved in fandom, Gina/Finn nevertheless rang true to me as someone who does spend an inordinate amount on Tumblr and who follows mainly fandom blogs. It’s obvious that both authors have also spent an inordinate time on sites like Livejournal and Tumblr, that they know how those communities and ecosystems work, how people type and write and comment (and text and write emails, etc.) This is a book whose strength lies in VOICE, and millennial, Internet-and-media-savvy voices it has in spades.
It’s really easy in some ways to simply list the ways Gena/Finn resembles Fangirl, which isn’t fair to this book. While they do share narrative similarities regarding the unfolding of a fictional narrative alongside the real-life narrative of the characters interacting with it, and said characters’ feelings and relationships to their beloved stories (the Simon Snow series and Up Below), Gena/Finn takes some extra steps to include the intersection of the actual creators of the show, the actors, the fact that fandom exists offline as well as online, and that when it comes to fandom, and friendships, the lines between offline and online can blur very easily. Gena/Finn doesn’t just acknowledge but full-out understands and runs with the fact that the Internet serves as both a medium of communication and a form of media itself (fanfic, fanart, blogs, etc.), both of which forge, inform, and mediate relationships. What starts out as an online relationship for Gina and Finn moves offline in such a way that they have to grapple with what that supposed separation between “real life” and “online life” is, and how that in turn affects their friendship.
Gena and Finn’s relationship—you guys, it’s incredible. It’s a heads-first, topsy-turvy, ecstatic, feelings-y connection between two people immediately grokking each other and loving the other’s personalities—Genna is the upbeat, determinedly bubbly one with some mental health issues she rather wished would stop interfering with her life, and Finn is the steadier, more “adulty” of the two, if no less confused about what the hell she’s doing with her life, and whether or not she’d actually marry her longtime boyfriend.
The thing is, these two love each other. Explicitly. They say so in-text. But just like the problem of identifying the line between “real” from “online” life, their relationship isn’t easily definable. It’s romance. It’s best-friendship. It’s both. It’s neither. AND GINA AND FINN HAVE TO GRAPPLE WITH THAT. I love that they have to confront the prospect of needing to put a label on it, and what that label will mean for the two of them and for the people around them. And the book does all this without invalidating Gina’s bisexuality even once. Yes, Gina is bisexual and Jewish, she’s in a complicated relationship with a lady who has a boyfriend, yet THIS STORY DOESN’T DEVOLVE INTO LABELS AND IDENTITIES. (For the record, can I also say how freaking awesome it is that Gina and I share a last name? This is the first time I have ever encountered a fictional character with the glaringly obvious-signpost-of-a-Jewish identity last name Goldman.)
Honestly (and this is going to sound so cliche), Gena/Finn is the kind of book I needed when I was a teenager and that I still need now. Books about complicated relationships that aren’t easily definable or categorized yet that are nevertheless (and sometimes because so) are filled with love and affection and going the extra mile because dammit, they’re an important part of your life and they need your help and you’d do whatever necessary to make sure they’re alright. It’s a book not just about recognizing feelings and love, but what you do with those feelings afterward, and how you love people, in the ways that matter.
The one thing I didn’t care for was Gina’s scraps of poetry—I’m not too poetry-inclined to begin with, and these particular bits felt too detached from their intended subject matter.
Gena/Finn is a quick read that I zipped through in a couple hours, but it’s packed with plot and character development and some pretty good twists. And feelings. And pain. I recommend this book for anyone in the mood for a contemporary, Internet-and-fandom savvy YA read about two characters loving what they love and loving each other.