Book Reviews

Fangirl by: Rainbow Rowell

16068905[1]A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

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? (Goodreads)

This is the third book by the exquisite Rainbow Rowell and was just released on September 10th, 2013. I was out doing the dreaded grocery shopping and was delighted that it was available at my friendly Meijers…kudos to them!

Rainbow Rowell is one of my favorite authors. Why, you ask? She is consistently brilliant. Consistent in writing well developed characters. Consistent with creating dialogue that is realistic and engrossing-the characters actually talk to one another-imagine that! Consistent with touching on a subject that is important yet not horrific. Consistent in writing some of the steamiest yet not smutty romance scenes. Consistent in having the characters celebrate their flaws. Consistent with some of the most delicious prose I have read. You get the picture.

Speaking of a character driven story, there’s Cath. She is the protagonist in this story and as much as I wanted to shake her and help her come out of her shell, I found that we have a lot in common and maybe that is why she upset me. She is an introvert and has difficulty connecting with people but is loved by thousands of fans who tune into her fanfiction writing on the blogosphere, a safe place to be herself.

“Cath liked to worry. It made her feel proactive, even when she was totally helpless…and as long as she was worrying about it, it probably wasn’t going to happen. Like some sort of anxiety vaccine. Like watching a pot to make sure it never boiled.”

I appreciated that Rowell didn’t have her go through this extreme transformation trying to change herself to fit in with the majority of her college peers. You know those scenes. Where she gets a complete exterior makeover and shows up to the big party and wows all of the “popular” people. She stayed true to her nerdy, caring and overthinking self. Those few who took her under their wing and befriended her liked her for all of the quirks, regardless. Cath wore Simon Snow t-shirts and hung up Simon Snow fan paraphernalia in her dorm room unabashedly. I loved her for that. I also loved Cath for her unwavering loyalty to Simon Snow, her sister Wren (even when she was being a pain) and to her father when he went through a mental breakdown. There are few people that you can rely on in life and I would want Cath in my corner. She is honest about herself and her insecurities and guess what? I loved that!

“No,’ Cath said, ‘seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.”  

Something that I find beautiful in Rainbow Rowell’s stories is that she creates what most would call “flaws” into an attractive feature, even sexy. The characters fall in love with each others’ minds and the way they treat one another. And also the too bushy eyebrows, widow’s peak and lack of a buff bod. She doesn’t fall into the more common YA/NA trap of having them instantly fall in love with dark eyes, smirks and washboard abs. These characters work for it and I love it. Yes, I am overusing “love” in this post. Seriously, some of the exchanges and scenes between Levi and Cath were so yummy. There are just too many to quote here!

And then there is Reagan. She is one of my most favorite secondary characters of all time. She’s edgy, brutally honest, tough, snarky and just what Cath needs in a roommate and friend. Reagan really helps Cath come out of her shell but again doesn’t try to change her. Their dialogue with one another was heartbreaking and at the same time hilarious. Again, I could break into quote overload people…I’m sparing you this fine Monday morning.

Oh, and the Simon Snow snippets and connection to Cath’s life? Clever. I just can’t even go on anymore about this book. I feel like I’m not doing Ms. Rowell’s fantastic writing any justice. I am out of words. Here it is: nothing really happens in this book. I mean in the way of car chases, plot twists, mysteries solved, characters dying, extreme violence, revisiting torturous pasts or steamy sex scenes-if that’s what you are looking for. But what happened to me when I read Fangirl was: I thought more,  felt more compassion and empathy for others and I smiled like a fool with the engrossing exchanges. I cheered for Cath, Wren, their dad, Cath and Levi’s relationship, Cath and her writing and Cath and Reagan’s friendship. The phrases and text captured much more than my attention.

Am I now sounding like a fangirl for this book? Her writing? I hope so.

Amazon        Barnes & Noble

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