Etta

Review: Spoiler Alert

Published October 6th 2020, 416 pages

Author: Olivia Dade

Overview from Goodreads:

Olivia Dade bursts onto the scene in this delightfully fun romantic comedy set in the world of fanfiction, in which a devoted fan goes on an unexpected date with her celebrity crush, who’s secretly posting fanfiction of his own. 

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, Gods of the Gates, he’s known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster.  Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character through his stories, especially the ones that feature the internet’s favorite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he’d be fired. Immediately.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her “real life” for years—but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus, one half of her OTP, sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realizes life is really stranger than fanfiction.

Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realizes that he wants much more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she’s actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to hide from her.

With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled? 

Personal Review

First things first, Gods of the Gates needs to be made into an actual series! It may have parallels to Game of Thrones (it’s even said in the book that these shows are similar), but this show sounded like so much more. The action, romance, and general descriptions about this show just made it sound like must watch television, especially when you add in mythology for the story to center around.

April Whittier is a geologist moving from Sacramento at a consulting firm to a more stable state job in Berkeley. We open her part of the story when she is on her last day of field work. One thing that was fantastic was when April was performing field work with collecting soil samples, the author used many procedures that are used for actual scientists, such as the PPE and Chain of Custody forms for sample tracking. As a scientist, this made me incredibly happy to see real pieces of my day to day transcribed in a contemporary novel. April’s move to a new job not only means more stability, but it also means that she no longer has to fully hide who she is, which is a huge fan of Gods of the Gates , a fanfic writer, and a cosplayer. She is an active participant on the fanfic servers and writes under her pen name Ulsie with the username Unapologetic Levinia Stan.

Marcus Caster-Rupp plays Aeneas on Gods of the Gates and is known to not be the most intelligent. However, his true self is slowly revealed in the book where he is actually a lot brighter than his public persona portrays. He is also secretly into reading and writing his own fanfic where he participates in the forums under the pen name BAWN and user name Book!AeneasWouldNever.  For fear of losing his career, he must keep his fanfic side under wraps no matter what.

When Gods of the Gates announces for fans to upload their cosplays on Twitter, April decides she no longer wants to hide because of her size. She is not ashamed that she is fat and she wants to celebrate her confidence by posting her own cosplay and true self online. However, when she posts online, she does experience some support, but she also faces haters.  Marcus happened to be scrolling through Twitter and comes across April’s picture. He decides to stand up for her in front of the whole Twitter-verse and asks her out publically. She accepts and the two of them plan to meet for dinner on an actual date.  (As a former cosplayer who is plus-sized, the online hate certainly resonated with me – sadly, there was no hot actor to “rescue” me.)

The two of them meet on a seemingly awkward date. Soon they discover they possibly have a lot more in common than they initial thought and there’s no denying that the attraction is there for each other. Eventually, the two of them start dating and working through all the obstacles that they face as they come up. Although I absolutely loved the writing and how the couple faced issues head on, there’s a part of me that wished that their relationship was built up to become a full on couple later on in the novel as I felt it was a little rushed at first.

This novel delves into two topics that especially are typically avoided in many fictional works: learning disabilities (dyslexia in this case) and fat main characters. I admired how these were handled by both the main characters themselves and those around them. April has faced tons of torment from her parents about her size and I felt this in my core. Constantly plus-sized individuals have those that care for them tells them about healthy eating habits or exercise. It’s a huge microaggression and aggression issue that almost every plus sized individual faces.  Appearance is something that tons of people are judged on, but it’s up to the individual themselves to change who they are, if they feel so inclined, and not the decision for those around them. For the learning disabilities, I thought it was fantastically written and explored. There are tons and tons of children (and adults) that go undiagnosed where they go around thinking there is something wrong with them and it’s their fault that they can’t read, think, or act like everyone else around them. Bravo to this novel for not only touching on these subjects, but for writing them in a way that educates others.

April and Marcus are an adorable couple that connect well with each other. It was difficult to read at times how it was typically Marcus who did something to upset April rather than have moments where April upset Marcus. It just seemed unbalanced as it didn’t seem relatable that only one half of a couple would make major mistakes when typically both individuals do something that upsets the other, especially as your relationship is just starting and you’re learning how to fully be together as a unit.

Overall, this novel is a heart-warming tale that gives people, especially plus-sized that you can love yourself no matter what. April was strong and confident in herself with or without Marcus in her life. Sure, she experienced moments of doubt about her size, but that only made her more relatable and realistic.  The importance of an online community was a touching highlight as you don’t have to talk to people IRL to have them as true friends. (Man y people do not understand that online friends are friends and should not be discounted.) Another fantastic addition is how it is important to distance yourself from those that you love if it means distancing yourself from their abuse. In this case, both Marcus and April’s parents claimed to love them but their actions and words hurt their respective children and sometimes space was the answer.

This novel may not have been perfect, but it’s a fantastic read. It’s a breath of fresh air to have characters in their 30s included in the world of fanfiction especially when it can sometimes be dismissed as a teenage pastime.  Marcus and April are a heart-warming couple where they uplift each other. They see the best in each other and encourage the other to show their amazing selves to the world. I highly recommend that anyone who wants a feel-good read to give this novel a chance!

I cannot wait for Slow Burn to be released as we get to look more closely about Alex, Marcus’ best friend and former God of the Gates co-star!  June  2021 cannot come fast enough!

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