Rowell, Rainbow. Scattered Showers. St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books. 282 pp. ISBN 987-1-250-85541-1. $24.99
This stellar collection brings together four orphan stories previously published and five brand new ones, including a new story set in the fictional Simon Snow universe constructed in Fangirl. Fans who ordered autographed copies also received a limited edition Simon and Baz fanficlet, My Rosebud Boy that pitches Simon as a florist crushing on a – so sweet considering the title!). Romance and all manner of geekery collide in equal measures of angst and adorableness. Each story has a little sunshine and a little rain that combine to make something beautiful.
My two favorites were “Winter Songs for Summer” and “If the Fates Allow.” In “Winter Songs for Summer,” Summer can’t stop crying when she pre-emptively breaks up with Charlie, her first love, when she senses his waning interest. She’s listening to Tori Amos’s “Silent All These Years” on repeat until her downstairs dorm neighbor knocks on her door to ask her to cease, then slides a mix CD of sad songs he will find tolerable under her door for her to listen to, instead. His music makes her cry, too, but there is something a little different about the playlist that the young man curates for her. Another follows, and another, and they get to be friends, and his music, his assertion that her ex is a dipshit help her to frame her grief, heal and move on. Tori Amos, soft serve ice cream, and the promise and potential of new love after someone who wasn’t quite right brought me right back to my 1990s college experience. The playlist is available for listening to during your own heartache on Spotify.
By contrast, “If the Fates Allow” has a much more contemporary feel, and it features a grown up Reagan (also from FanGirl) in a pandemic world. Home for the holidays, she reconnects with a neighbor who is taking the masking, testing and distancing as seriously as she. I’m sad the retro Jell-O salad recipes were not included, but a quick Google search revealed many recipes for both; the raspberry Jell-O with cream cheese and pretzels seems so Reagan–a pleasing combination of a little sweet, a little salty, and a little funky.
In “Kindred Spirits,” a lifelong Star Wars fan decides to camp out in line to get tickets to the next sequel, and makes friends and maybe more. To her surprise, dismay and relief, there are only two other fans, both men, who coach her in line etiquette and accept her for her love of the fandom while her mother circles the block like a shark daily to make sure her daughter is okay.
In “Waiting” characters waiting to be added to a story connect, disappearing from their shared world when they are scrapped, or when they appear on the page. It’s clever, and filled with yearning. “Midnights” is also yearnful: a teen is in love with her best friend who never has a shortage of other girls to kiss at midnight while she watches from the sidelines. “Snow for Christmas” puts Simon at Baz’s home for the holidays. I didn’t care for “The Prince and the Troll” as much as the rest.
We need to talk about how satisfying the design is. The hardcover is solid and slick. The page edges are tinted a perfect shade of blue. The end papers are deep purple polka-dotted with white raindrops. A satin ribbon bookmark is stitched in to mark your place (or favorite tale). Each story has an illustrated flyleaf in shades of plum and teal. The font is deep plum on creamy paper. It’s a total package!