Date of Publication: September 10 2013
Source: Librarian (thanks!)
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .
But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Fangirl is my first Rainbow Rowell read, and another foray into a genre I don't usually seek out: contemporary. I liked a lot of the story but there were also some parts that weren't to my liking.
The ending, for example, felt abrupt. There wasn't a clear problem so the story kind of went along for a while, and although there were positives to this sort of plot, it made the ending weak. It was like the story was fading already, so the point at which it faded was arbitrary. I suppose that's the first thing about Fangirl that I like and don't like. The plot just seems to go on and on about Cath's life. It's totally intentional, but if you don't like Cath or the writing style, the plot of Fangirl won't save you. It's definitely one of those stories that's about the process, not the ending.
I was pretty happy that I liked the writing style almost instantly, and grew to like Cath. I'm going to university next year and I don't know where I'm going, and it's hard to find books about this. I thought the beginning of Fangirl was perfect because it captured the excitement and the terror of moving out (at least the way I imagine it). I think what was so powerful about Fangirl, what drew me in right away, was that I believe everyone has a bit of Cath inside of them. It's so easy to relate to Cath because awkward moments are everywhere, and sometimes I do wish people would just go away, and maybe I am terrified to go to the dining hall too. She was a character that had a clear personality, but someone I could relate with so well, and I enjoyed experiencing the world through her eyes.
The character development in Fangirl is phenomenal. I mentioned that the plot wasn't the biggest highlight. I have this philosophy that if the plot isn't going to be good, the characters have to be, and this was absolutely true for Fangirl. Have you ever looked at a person and wondered about all the little things that make them who they are? My sister, for example, always wears a headband and hates hair in her eyes. It's a really tiny thing about her, but I notice it because I am her sister and I know her in a way most people will never know. That was how Rainbow Rowell treated her characters. They were like people with mannerisms that she was describing, and she really nailed their essence. The weren't just words on a page- they had a presence, and I loved it. It made Fangirl much more real and Cath's interactions so fascinating.
A byproduct of the fantastic characterization were the fantastic relationships. For example, Reaghan was Cath's roommate. Reaghan was a little bit scary, a little gruff, frowned a lot, had a history and a life outside of Cath. Somehow, she was perfect for Cath. She took Cath under her wing and she sometimes said some mean things, but she said them with love. Their relationship developed from two strangers sharing a room to friends. All the relationships developed like this: slowly, and carefully. The character was introduced, and slowly they became more integrated into Cath's orbit (or not).
I don't know how I got through this review without mentioning the actual fangirling part. Cath is an enormous fan of a series that resembles Harry Potter. She writes incredibly popular fan fiction and she is in the process of writing Carry On, which is like the eighth book in the series (before the actual eighth book comes out). Cath loves her fictional world and it's constantly in the back of her mind. It's a lot like her comfort blanket and it's a part of who she is. Obviously, I can relate in many ways seeing as I write in a blog and get vaguely (okay, fine, totally) obsessive about anything I really care about. It was cool that at the start of every chapter there was a little bit of media that kind of introduced the reader to Cath's favourite fictional world.
Furthermore, I enjoyed Cath's fan fiction, and the way that she felt about it. There was a conversation Cath had with some random at what I think was a library, and she basically met another Simon Snow fan, and the two were talking and this conversation just felt so real because this is how I've made many friends- by fangirling. Anyway, it's a huge part of the novel and Rainbow Rowell explains it quite well. Fandoms have become infinitely more popular in the last few years and there's a whole generation of Beliebers and Directioners ready to be set loose on the world. I would be curious to read a book about them now, but I digress.
The best way to describe Fangirl is that it's a book about life. More specifically, it's about the life of Cath, a fan fiction writer and an English major. A lot happens, because it's her life, but I don't think there is a clear cut story. Fangirl is awesome if you have ever wondered what life is like as someone else. Sometimes, it feels a little slow, and other times the moments are so perfect it's like you're living them. Either way, I enjoyed this glimpse into another world and will be looking forward to reading more by Rainbow Rowell.