Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Release date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Rating: This is the first Rainbow Rowell book I've read, but you can bet your bottom it won't be my last. EMERGENCY KANYE PARTY! *dances madly*
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?
The cover: I adore this cover. I'd love to see more with this cartoony sort of style. It's cute and perfectly captures the style and voice of the novel inside.
The story: I'm going to keep all things personal out of this review. Just know that I related to Cath SO MUCH that at times it was a little painful. Sometimes it was almost creepy (I went to college in the Midwest at first, I have a twin, I am a Fangirl-with-a-capital-F). Basically, Cath and I are soul mates. We're both entirely baffled by this socializing thing and our idea of a great night in is staying in with our laptops and churning out a couple thousand words (though I don't write filthy gay slash-fic, but if I could BY GOD I WOULD). When life gets overwhelming, we both decide to shut down and retreat into our shells like hermit crabs. So while I know a lot of people didn't get Cath, I TOTALLY did.
Cath doesn't think she's ready for college. She doesn't know how to do the things that seem so easy for other kids her age. I've read some reviews where people find her behavior and internal logic bizarre, but I related to it one hundred percent. I also related to Cath's obsession with Simon Snow (an obvious and rather hilarious stand-in for Harry Potter). Cath is a big deal in the Simon Snow fan fiction world. Cath has real all the books multiple times, seen the movie, bought the posters. It used to be something she did with her identical twin, Wren, but now that college has started, there's distance between the sisters, something Cath hates and Wren doesn't.
It makes Cath feel incredibly lonely. So what does she do? She writes more fan fiction about Simon (obviously Harry) and Baz (obviously Draco) falling madly in love.
She tries to figure out what these strange boy-shaped people are (I don't know either, Cath). Rowell has this almost-deadpan style of humor that's so strange and hilarious that it would constantly catch me off guard. Multiple lines had me snorting out loud. But most of all, I got Cath. I understood how lonely and horrible it is to be the one that cares and the one that cries when nobody else seems to be. To be so entirely devoted to something that other people completely dismiss. Cath's story can break your heart sometimes, particularly the part with her family (I almost lost in in a certain waiting room scene with a certain parent). Not everything is roses and rainbows (Rowells). There are messy ends and jagged pieces, because that's life.
Even when I hated the other characters, I loved them. Reagan the surly roommate, Levi, her charming, sunny boyfriend, Wren, Cath's father, Nick, Cath's creative writing professor--they're all really well-drawn characters who all serve a purpose and have their own agendas. And the ROMANCE is swoon-tastic. Like, can I marry you, love-interest-I-will-not-name? Even though you deserve a good strong smack for that THING you did? But seriously, folks, Rowell totally knows how to write a believable, slow burn romance. I actually found myself whispering, "Kiss. Kiss, you fools. Why are they not kissing yet? Now, see, that would have been the PERFECT PLACE TO KISS. Fools." No, seriously, I was sitting next to my friend and she told me to shut up. Apparently talking to books is creepy? Cath would understand.
Besides He Who Must Be Kissed, Reagan is probably my favorite character. She's rough and pushy and kind of secretly loves Cath and her weirdness. She's really the first character that forces Cath to start functioning. This particular friendship is what really gets the ball rolling for Cath.
Also, as a writer myself, I completely loved Cath's creative journey, too. She struggled to find her own stories and voice and suffered from all the paralyzing insecurity real writers do. It was a joy watching her finally figure out what those weird wing things on her back were for and stretch them out.
But most of all, this book seems like a love letter to fandom and introverts. It's acknowledging a part of culture that doesn't get acknowledged very often. It's about how books and movies are not JUST BOOKS AND MOVIES, MOM, and how they can literally change your life, and how it's okay to want to live in those worlds and reblog gifsets and read or write torrid slash-fic. The life of a Fangirl is pretty enriching, once you understand it. And there's nothing wrong with that.