Published by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on March 20th 2018
Felicity meets Fangirl in this contemporary novel about a young woman who must leave behind her fantasy life—inspired by her favorite WB show from the 1990s—and create a real one at college.
Caroline Sands has never been particularly good at making friends. And her parents’ divorce and the move to Arizona three years ago didn’t help. Being the new girl is hard enough without being socially awkward too. So out of desperation and a desire to please her worried mother, Caroline invented a whole life for herself—using characters from Felicity, an old show she discovered online and fell in love with.
But now it’s time for Caroline to go off to college and she wants nothing more than to leave her old “life” behind and build something real. However, when her mother discovers the truth about her manufactured friends, she gives Caroline an ultimatum: Prove in this first semester that she can make friends of the nonfictional variety and thrive in a new environment. Otherwise, it’s back to living at home—and a lot of therapy.
Armed with nothing more than her resolve and a Felicity-inspired plan, Caroline accepts the challenge. But she soon realizes that the real world is rarely as simple as television makes it out to be. And to find a place where she truly belongs, Caroline may have to abandon her script and take the risk of being herself.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A YA book set in college, with a premise that involves one of my favorite 90’s TV shows? As soon as I heard about Finding Felicity, I was excited to read it. Ultimately, though, while I flew through it in a matter of hours, this book had some issues I couldn’t look past.
Finding Felicity follows our main character, Caroline, as she heads to college and attempts to make a new start for herself. The book opens at Caroline’s high school graduation party, where her mom finds out that Caroline has woven an intricate web of lies about her life and her friends ever since they’ve moved to their new home in Arizona. Caroline has made up friends and experiences for herself based on her favorite television show, Felicity. For some reason, after all this, her mom still allows her to go off to college halfway across the country on the basis that it will be a fresh start for Caroline, and that she’ll make an effort to make actual friends and put herself out there this time.
The twist, though? The only reason Caroline has chosen to attend this particular university is because she’s decided to follow her unrequited crush from high school there, just like Felicity Porter does with her high school crush, Ben, in the TV series.
The thing that both made this book difficult to read and, at the same time, made me like it, was how realistic Caroline felt. I related to her an uncomfortable amount. Even though I didn’t make the same mistakes she did, I think every new college student has this grand idea in their head of college being a fresh start, a chance to completely reinvent yourself and be everything you weren’t in high school. While there are some merits to this, I think everyone eventually realizes that… all of that doesn’t work. Being yourself is the best option from the start, because who you are will show, no matter how hard you try to hide it. It’s HARD to be vulnerable, and seeing Caroline grapple with this over the course of Finding Felicity was one of my favorite parts of reading this book. She’s deeply flawed, and it takes her making so many mistakes for things to finally “click” for her, but this felt real and human and true to my own experiences.
One thing that REALLY, REALLY bothered me about this book was the portrayal of Caroline’s mental health. I’m not a mental health professional, but Caroline’s therapist in this book diagnosed her with “anxious introversion,” and throughout the book she constantly chalked her problems up to her “introversion” and the fact that she’s a highly sensitive person. CAN WE PLEASE STOP CONFLATING INTROVERSION AND SOCIAL ANXIETY??? As someone who both 1.) is an introvert and 2.) has diagnosed social anxiety, this infuriates me. These are not the same thing. Introversion is not an excuse to be an asshole. Introversion also does not equal a complete inability to interact with others. I’m an introvert, but I also love socializing and networking. However, sometimes my social anxiety prevents me from reaching out to people. Introversion and social anxiety are not the same thing. Being one of these things does not mean you are the other. You can be both introverted and socially anxious, BUT THEY ARE DIFFERENT THINGS. Basically, this book presented a great opportunity to start a discussion about mental health, and instead it used pseudo-science and showed a glaring lack of research or understanding on the author’s part. *climbs down from soapbox*
Other than that, the characters were a bit lackluster, as was the setting. I was so excited to read a YA book set in college, because I think so many teens would benefit from reading about 18/19 year-old protagonists grappling with life immediately after high school, but it was a bit underwhelming. Caroline’s new friends, though they all seem like great people, were all very formulaic characters and tired tropes.
I will say, I loved the undercurrent of Felicity throughout this book. Sure, the show itself is ridiculous and unrealistic and filled with drama, but it’s also a great reflection of growing up (… pretty much exactly like this book).
Overall, though I loved Caroline’s character journey and the focus on a beloved 90’s TV favorite, the rest of this book was, at best, underwhelming, and at worst, problematic and harmful.
Have you read Finding Felicity? What YA books set in college would you recommend instead of this one?