Monday, September 16, 2013

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

In Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, 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? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I've been excited about this book ever since I found out about it. And it lived up to my expectations in every way. Okay, so maybe there were a few flaws, but come on, nothing's perfect, but for me, this book felt perfect.

First, I'm going to start off with the few things that did bother me a bit but not enough to detract from how much I enjoyed the book. The first is that we never find out what happens between Wren and their mom and Cath and their mom. So I can assume about Cath and her mom, but it seemed like both left that hanging. And the second is that towards the last fourth of the book or so, it seemed like Levi was pushing Cath to have sex with him. It seemed a bit out of character, but it was written in a way that made it seem less forceful and just more eagerness. I get it though, I do, and it was something that I got over quickly as I read.

But onto everything else!

I could relate so well to Cath. Sure, I don't write fanfiction (though I'd love to), but Simon Snow to her is like Harry Potter to me, and I honestly think that it was meant to parallel Harry Potter. I know many people have compared the two. She's awkward and has social anxiety. And while I haven't started college yet, going to the pre-college programs this summer made me feel very much like Cath. I felt out of place, and it seemed like nobody liked me or wanted to talk to me (at Brown but not so much at Barnard). I didn't want to eat alone, but I did anyway, which I guess makes me a step up from Cath, but anyway. I was the one that tried to stay in her room instead of going out every night before curfew. So I completely understood. She didn't feel whiny or anything, and I think a lot of people may interpret it that way if they've never felt that way. It may seem like she's creating the problem, and the solution would just be to get out and try to make some friends. But if you know what it's like, you know that it's so much more than that.

My second favorite thing about the book is the characters. There's Cath herself, then there's Reagan, Wren, Nick, Professor Piper, Cath's father, Courtney, Laura (their mother), and of COURSE Levi. Every one of them is actually quite interesting and complex, possibly with the exception of Professor Piper and Courtney but only because we don't know much about them. But they're all interesting and complex and different. You come to dislike Nick, love Levi, and everything else in between. You cheer for their father, cry with Wren and Cath, and you want to yell at Laura. They feel so real, and they're just so well written. They're all incredibly flawed, but the thing is, everyone in life is flawed, and that's why it works so well.

Another part I actually really liked was how Rainbow leaves just enough to your imagination. She'll lead you into a scene and then cut to the next chapter, which takes place after the scene just so you can fill in the gaps as you'd like. I enjoyed imagining scenes and the snark and banter and sadness and anger. It's never fun when the author tells you everything and doesn't leave you room to think. (It also lends well to fanfiction. hehe)

A smaller part of the book that I enjoyed was the fact that she includes pop culture references ranging from Battlestar Galactica to the Suite Life of Zack and Cody. It kept the book real and grounded, and it made the characters more real. Many of us have grown up watching the Suite Life, and if the characters had been real, they probably would have too. In the world of Simon Snow, it allows the reader to go "Hey! I get that reference! Cool." I think that's awesome.

I also enjoyed the plot itself and seeing the characters learn and grow. There are some plot twists, some more predictable than others, but Rainbow played with my emotions so well. I cried at least 3 times while reading this, if not more. It's what happens when you get sucked into the story and become emotionally invested, I suppose. But she also made me laugh and smile. And agghhh, I just loved every minute of it. I loved seeing the characters in their moments of weakness but also their moments of strength. I loved how relationships formed and changed. It was all just beautiful, and I couldn't put down the book. It's a character-driven novel, so thank goodness it was done so well.

Lastly, I know some people were bothered by the inclusion of the fanfiction and Simon Snow writing, but I actually quite enjoyed it. I liked seeing how each part fit into the chapter sometimes. Plus, I think it allowed you to see into Cath's head in a different way. Or maybe it was because I actually found it interesting...

I just really loved this book a lot, and it's definitely one of my favorites. I recommend it to everyone!!!

Rating: 5/5 and added to my favorites
You can find Fangirl on Goodreads, iBooks, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.
You can find Rainbow on her official website, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
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