I read most of this in one sitting-- was only supposed to be 100 pages... ^^
Anyhoo, this review will be on Fangirl, the first book I've read from Rainbow Rowell. The synopsis is provided by Goodreads:
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?
Booktubers, published authors, bookstores. I initially wanted to read it then I took it off my to read list thinking it was too contemporary romance, but then I reconsidered because while I may not write fanfiction-- I'm still a fangirl at heart and always will be. ^^
(safe for those who haven't read the book yet)
Fangirl is a contemporary romance young adult novel about an 18 year old's first year in college and her adaption to the new environment and people and everything new that college brings, which includes many extracurricular activites. This isn't new, you see this in real life and you'll see it literature. However what makes this book slightly different is that the new-to-college experience is being told through the eyes of a devoted fangirl to a fictional Simon Snow series that has a very large internet-based following since the series has grown with the students in this college's childhood. While some students have gotten over it, some still devotedly follow, such as our main protagonist, Cather Avery.
Not only does she still follow the Simon Snow series, but she even writes fanfiction, too (and is quite popular too! writing under the pseudonym of Magicath). Her twin sister Wren used to write fanfiction alongside her, going by the pseudonym Wrenegade, but represents the part of her generation who still loves the series, but doesn't follow it as avidly anymore. Her twin isn't an exact copy of Cath, in fact, they're almost exact opposites. Wren is more free-spirited and independent while Cather is more reclusive and private with people (internet friends excluded). This is what starts off the book, with Cather moving into a dorm with a complete stranger, who is not like Cath at all. This is the first time Cath hadn't spent most of her time with Wren in their entire lives, and the fact that her writing professor (a professional, published writer) doesn't like fanfiction makes Cath's expectations in college spiral down more and more.
In our first few months in college, we are introduced to several characters, all unlike Cath in more ways than one. We have Reagan, Cath's tough-looking roommate. Levi, who's always hanging out with Reagan. Nick, Cath's fiction writing partner, the one person at school who she can relate to the most. Abel, Cath's long-distance boyfriend who texts every once in a while from a college out of state. Courtney, Wren's rommate who seems to only want to party and drink and come in between Cath and Wren (something that bothers Cath more than most). Arthur, Cath and Wren's father who's trying his best to handle being without his daughters. And Professor Piper, a published author who's written several books that Cath has read, yet who isn't a fan of Cath writing fanfiction. All with unique personalities that stand out one against the other and are lovely contrasts to our protagonist. And honestly, from the good to the bad, and to the good who I thought was bad, and the bad that I thought was good, I loved all these characters and I can imagine meeting them in real life-- some more than others.
Cath was a very relatable protagonist, in all honestly a little too relatable. We both love to write, we both decline going out and partying like most college students, we both are fangirls, we both are quiet and don't speak up in classes. Seriously, aside from writing fanction, which I personally don't do, I prefer to make up my own stories, we're identical. So if you're reading this and you didn't like Cath, I want to guess it is 90% most likely you won't like me. But you're here reading a review on Fangirl, so you must in some way enjoy reading, or reading fanfiction, or are a fangirl or fanboy, or even just being around fandoms, so I think even if you fell in the other 10% personality wise, we'd get along just fine. (Honestly my best friend and I are almost complete opposites in almost every way, but we were brought together by the show Supernatural, and five years later we're still the best of friends. Fandoms bring everyone together. <3) So in the end, I loved Cath as well as all the other characters. I just liked this story.
Now for me, one of the hardest things about this book for me to get over was the writing style. It would get a little too colloquial for my liking, and sometimes there'd be fragments that screamed at me and I would have to reread sentences 5x before continuing. However I'd say once you get to around 180 pages, you get used to it and the story becomes thoroughly more enjoyable.
A thought on the whole Simon Snow series: it was probably what got me hooked on page 1, (thought around page 10-180 I wasn't a fan). It was almost exactly like Harry Potter, even having the amount of books in the series identical (except for the final installment that would be released at the end of spring the next year). My only stickler, which isn't really a stickler in the grand scheme of things, but Harry Potter was mentioned once and I was a little thrown back by his random appearance. That means that Harry Potter existed and would mean that there were 2 huge fandoms that were very, very similar in almost every way. Now don't get me wrong, there are a bunch of fandoms that have huge followings all over TV and literature and movies, but none that are quite so similar. Think of some of your favorite fandoms that you follow, and try to list out all the similarities they share with one another. Can't list many right? I don't really know why it was mentioned and I wish it was cut, but hey, I'm not the editor and it isn't my book. Just my thought.
Another thought on Cath's Simon Snow fanfiction. I love the fact about Cath is that she's a fangirl, and while I may not do it myself, I love the fact that she likes to write fanfiction. I am inspired by things around me and like to write my own stories, she's the opposite, she loves to have something to go off of and have her own twist on characters and events in books she loves. However, I didn't enjoy reading about it. It brought me out of Cath's real world and that was the reason I was reading this book in the first place. I understand it does that to show everyone who reads it what Cath's writing style and stories and passion is like, however before every chapter and sometimes for several pages in a chapter or so, there'd be an excerpt from the Simon Snow series or Cath's fanfiction herself, and I honestly couldn't tell you what happened in any of it. I can't even describe a scene. I just read over the words. All I know is that there were two main characters, Simon and Baz, and some minor characters, Agatha and Penelope. There were some other names mentioned but I didn't know if they referenced places or people (like He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named) or society or spells or magical objects or what. Next time I read this book I may try to read it again just to give it another shot, but honestly if it doesn't catch my interest the second time around, I may just skip those sections all together from that point on. However, while I didn't like reading it, it does make the book unique because not only does the protagonist write fanfiction, the reader can read it for himself.
There was a lot of dialogue, but when there were moments of description of character's actions or settings and I found myself in love with the story. This is a story of first loves and new experiences of independence and friendship and I think for any fangirl/fanboy, it would be really hard not to like this book. Not even have to love, just like it for the fact that there are other fangirls and fanguys out there who love to read and still love to be devoted and passionate about fictional worlds in literature and TV and movies.
I'm a fangirl and proud. <3
Though I was iffy at first, I am glad I did buy this book because I would definitely crack it open again for a nice light-hearted read. Though I don't usually do recommendations, (which actually I may start doing, I don't know we'll see) this book is a lot like Anna and the French Kiss by Stephenie Perkins. I even gave them both 4 stars, for writing style and story-telling, though I do say that the pacing is very fast and it's really easy to read in one sitting without even realizing it.
I give this book 4/5 stars.
"I'd rather be broken than wasted."
Next To Read:
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
River Song's Spoilers:
(unsafe for those who haven't read this book yet, so don't read this section)
Okay I have a lot to talk about. I don't want to dissect every little scene, but there's some biggies that I want to talk about. First off with characters.
Let's start with roommates, Reagan is nothing like I thought she'd be. I was expecting her to not develop and remain a flat character, but Rowell cleverly decides to surprise you and make her Cath's ally. While there may be some tension when Cath and Levi become more and more serious, Reagan acts like the adult she is (she's 21, and honestly I see many immature people in my college that are all around her age and still act stupidly-- wonder why I choose to read so much...) and it's a trait I think many readers love about her. She has a tough attitude and a tough exterior and tough personality, but she's a friend when Cath needs her the most and it's more than I ever expected from her. So I say that while I love every character, good or bad, Reagan stands at one of the top favorite, most complex characters we meet.
Next is Levi. Levi is the first guy we meet, heck he's the first person-- even before Cath is mentioned. He's super-friendly, always smiling, charming, really chill, and a great friend. While I wasn't sure or not at first, thinking that maybe Nick was going to be the guy Cath was originally expecting to hook up with, it all worked out in the end since Nick was a douche. (will continue with his thoughts in the next paragraph). The chapter where Cath finally decides to go out and she ends up catching Levi locking lips with a blonde was predictable. Okay, maybe not her being blonde, but him kissing another girl "unexpectedly." An event that would deter Cath from Levi and would have him need to prove his feelings for her. Though I do admire that Cath didn't try to make him jealous by bringing Nick around (like he'd anyways though right? xD ), but just stuck to her character and avoided him. You go girl! Lol. I probably fell in love with Levi about the time that he tried to get a second chance. I feared that she'd forgive him so easily and then they would magically be BF-GF (like another book I'm reading-- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, though they were already married but I digress...). She made him earn it and he seemed to want it for himself, too, to show both of them how important Cath was to him. And I especially love how he kept saying I like you. Sorry, I don't remember reading any novel in the past where one party says it repeatedly to the other party. They may say it once or twice, but otherwise it would be assumed in their actions that they liked them-- but not Levi, he reminded her constantly so she would know. Ahhh amore. <3
Nick was a difficult character to like, even if he was bad. He seemed to be described and thought of so much that I thought in the end he'd be really important, but the final scene with him is very anticlimatic. Like that's it, just let your boyfriend, sister and roommate threaten him to leave Cath alone (more or less)? I felt that Cath didn't really grow cajones and stick up for herself, but then I'm kind of happy she didn't because not all people are like that. It showed her true charcater in that moment and it just made me like Cath as a character there, but not Nick overall. In the beginning, I'll admit after some time I thought maybe he'd offer her to walk her to her dorm but nope, he was just using her. And then later on when Cath was getting more serious about Levi, one of the last, if not the last library writing meetings they meet up, I thought that Nick was having an affair with the teacher. I don't know why-- if anything he wouldn't be needing to meet up with Cath I guess, but I'm just happy I was wrong. And then disappeared for a good chunk of the last half of the book and I was a little confused because he seemed too important at first. Sorry don't want to go in a circle again, but yeah, I think Nick was one of the most unimportant characters that was emphasized over-abundantly. If anything, Courtney turned out to be one of the more important characters because she just ditches Wren at the hospital about 60 pages from the end. But that can be an argument that goes on for a long time.
Cath and Wren's parents. I predicted Laura, aka their mom would make an appearance, however I thought that that meant they would reconcile and make up. Thank the Heavens they did not! I would have disliked this book if so. She didn't deserve a second chance and in a way that made her flat-- not changing to try and become more involved in Cath and Wren's lives-- however Cath ultimately not reconciling with her shows that she just grew to get over her mother and in the end not need her. While Cath never showed she did, actually she repelled any meeting with the woman, but I just love that she chose to accept the fact that her mother wasn't going to change and there were other more important people who did care for her and that were worth the effort. Now Laura abandoning Cath, Wren and their father Aruthr (aka Art) is what made Art downspiral. He wasn't outright crazy, but he did have his low moments and I found that an admirable trait in a single father. He could have given them up or remarried, but he chose to be devoted to his daughters and just be happy with that. I wonder if that was perhaps a shout out to all the single fathers who don't get enough cred. And I found it funny when he argued for Cath to stay in college when she wanted to come back, and for Wren to come home when she wanted to stay in college. Anyone else laugh in that part? No? Huh.
Wren, she was a lovely complement to our narrator and while she wasn't entirely opposite of Cath, she was a firm complex character. She had similar interests with Cath, but she had many more dissimilarities with her as well that made her stand out, and ultimately to help Cath become her own person, too. I especially loved the little detail that Rowell includes about how they were always together in their hometown, even after college had started, but when they were away from home they were separate. I admire that she wanted to make an identity of herself and that she was able to grow alongside Cath, albeit in a different way.
The end was one of my most enjoyable moments. The last page is just a little excerpt of Cath branching out from her comfort zone and eventually being confident in herself and her writing to write fiction and not fanfiction. Though she was extremely lucky and was able to get a second chance to write a 10,000 word paper (yeah right you could do that at my school), I love the fact that by the end of the school year she was able to develop this part of her life. A part of her life that she thought may never change.
Until Next Time,