I picked up my copy of Fangirl shortly before a train journey home, and read about 80% in one go over the space of two hours. Novels about University, especially Young Adult Contemporary, are particularly relevant for me at the moment and so I absolutely loved the experience of reading this.
FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell
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 civilised 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 title is pretty self-explanatory and makes perfect sense – it’s short, sweet and to-the-point. It’s pretty rare that a cover would cause me to dislike a book, and I think the title ‘fangirl’ especially addresses the mixed reputation of ‘fangirls’ – in many ways FANGIRL is about being unashamed and proud of what you like.
It wasn’t until half way through FANGIRL that I realised the characters the cover referred to. Although I love the over – it’s beautiful – perhaps a cover featuring twins Wren and Cath would have been more truthful to the plot of the novel. It just seems like Levi isn’t intrinsic to the plot: in many ways, this is a novel about two sisters and their love for a fanbase. I don’t particularly see the romance as part of the main plot, regardless of how prominent it seems.
The plot of FANGIRL was mostly what I expected – the kind of cute, quick contemporary read which I found myself liking a lot more than I expected. It dealt with betrayal, mental illness and the volatility of relationships. I don’t want to talk about specifics for the purpose of keeping this review spoiler-free, and there’s nothing I particularly feel I need to discuss about the plot: it was lighthearted and positive while dealing with issues that, at times, were quite heavy. Yet FANGIRL manages to find the right balance between humour and serious.
I felt all the characters were complex and cleverly developed. The twins, were especially well created. I don’t find it believable that (minor spoiler here) a mother would name twins ‘Cather’ and ‘Wren‘ in order to make up the name ‘Catherine‘ but nevertheless I’m willing to suspend that thought. If I had to create some sort of criticism towards the characters, it did start to feel that perhaps Levi was a little too perfect and didn’t have a real enough flaw. It would have been nice to get a little more information on Levi’s backstory – not that he needed anything tragic in his past, and I recognise he wasn’t the main character, but I’d like to know more about both Levi and Reagan.
I gave FANGIRL a 4* and an 80%. It was a great novel – I wasn’t expecting to like it but found it especially readable, so I’ll be checking out other Rainbow Rowell novels.
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