Book Review – “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre(s): Young Adult, Teen, Contemporary, Lite Romance, College Life, Families
Description from Goodreads:
“A coming-go-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 forum, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like characters for every movie premier.
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 surely roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who things fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, and 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?”
I’ve had this on my “to read” list for a while now…the synopsis didn’t really draw me in to immediately sit down and start reading. Eventually I caved in – not really sure what made me decide to pick it up. Several other Iggles were either reading it, or talking about how much they loved it, so I figured I’d give it a try.
It was very slow going at first. It took me from 2/25 to 3/10 to get even 18% through it (thanks for the stats, Goodreads!). It’s actually interesting looking at the updates I made along the way:
2/25 – 1%
2/25 – marked as: currently reading
3/10 – 18%
3/11 – 32%
3/12 – 65%
3/13 – 90%
3/13 – marked as: read
3/13 – “I just finished “Fangirl: A Novel” WHY IS IT OVER ALREADY?!?!?!”
As you can see, the first week or so didn’t really take off. Granted, I did start reading “Code Name Verity” during this time, but I never felt like I had to drop that and immediately start reading where I left off. It was never a burning question of “what happens next??” The first handful of chapters were just not holding my attention, and I have a feeling I skimmed a lot of content.
I will admit that when I first met Cather (Cath…her full first name is Cather…her twin’s name is Wren…get it? Cather Wren?) I wasn’t too thrilled with her. She was very timid, meek, and introverted. She made her roommate’s boyfriend wait in the hall until said roommate returned. She wasn’t eager to start her new college life with the gusto and vigor you’d imagine. She was so worried about what people thought of her that she didn’t want to meet anyone! She fretted over what would happen once she got to the dining hall…where should she sit, how do the food lines work? What if she’s late to class?! Does she knock? Does she sneak in? UGH! HOW ANNOYING! Then it dawned on me WHY I didn’t like her…it was ME. I have those same anxieties – those same irrational worries and fears about seemingly meaningless things. Quiet, happy to keep to myself rather than going out; happy with my nose in a book or face buried in the computer screen, tapping away on a message board or some nonsense writing. As I learned more about Cath, I really started to relate to her…and I liked her. There were sill times when I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her violently – “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!?! DO IT!” I think that’s the sign of a good character, though.
As with all my reviews, I really try to avoid any type of spoilers, so I’ll try my best to dance around them here. I loved how all the relationships were outlined, and you could see their growth throughout the story. Some felt predictable, but nothing is new in the arts, is it?
(Warning – Rant ahead! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)
One area that seems to be a hot button topic for many readers who picked this up on the basis of the “fandom/fanfic” aspect is how that was portrayed. In a majority of reviews and discussions about this book, those participating in said reviews or discussions were quite frankly butthurt that “Fangirl” wasn’t represented as they felt it should have been to appear to the ‘true’ fandom lovers out there. Many folks feel that simply writing fanfic isn’t “fangirl/fanboy” enough – you need to be eyeball deep in cons and cosplay; eat sleep, and breathe your fandom. Otherwise you’re just a casual fan. And I have to tell you, I take serious exception to this. Don’t get me wrong, I know in EVERY genre/subculture/fandom/whatever you want to call it, I know there are elitists who feel like if you don’t do x, y, or z then you are NOT fanboy/fangirl material. Pfft. That is a load or horse poop. I have never been to a con, and have never cosplayed any of my favorite characters outside of Halloween or implied “everyday cosplay” – does that mean I’m not as big of a fan as you? I’ve never seen the “old school” Doctor Who episodes – does that mean I’m not a true Whovian? I jumped on the Sherlock train late in the game – does that mean I’m not actually Sherlocked? And don’t get me started on Harry Potter or MLP.
To tell someone to avoid reading this book because it doesn’t put the right amount of emphasis on belonging to a fandom that YOU FEEL IS APPROPRIATE to be considered a fanboy/fangirl is just ridiculous You are doing a huge disservice not only to your fandom by being an elitist jerkwad, you’re doing a disservice to someone who may really enjoy this book. Someone out there may be questioning if they’re really part of a fandom, and by excluding them in the manner that you have, you’re sending the message that they are not welcome unless they’ve met your criteria. This comes up all the time in the steampunk community, and I’m sure it happens in many other fandoms or subcultures – my feeling is that there is room for everyone. A fandom doesn’t have set rules or guidelines to be included. Sure, some may be more enthusiastic about it than others, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a fan.
There was also talk of how absurd it was for Cath to try and hand in a fiction writing assignment based on her fan fiction, and how her professor called her out for plagiarism. I’m not sure how I feel about this – I mean, I don’t think I’d have turned in fanfic for an assignment as it seems like it’d be an easy out. But I think about all the authors who have ebooks for sale on Amazon based on Jane Austen’s characters and worlds (The Darcy’s, anyone?) Does this mean their works are plagiarized? Many of those stories seem to pick up where Pride and Prejudice left off…twisting each character into their own story or telling things from their point of view. Isn’t that what Cath was doing with Simon Snow? I’m not going to get too involved in that discussion – it’s safe to say I’d never try to pass off fanfic as a novel of my own creation, or try to turn it in for an assignment. Like I said, nothing is new in the world of art!
OK – done ranting! Overall, I didn’t think I’d like this book as much as I did in the end. I was left wanting more, and wanting to know what happened with Cath, Wren, their Dad, and Levi. I wanted to find out if Cath comes to terms with her mom, and if they try to make amends. I was left feeling like there could be more, but I was happy with how it ended.
I agree with others when they say this is either a book you’ll love or a book you’ll dislike. I started out in the dislike category, and found myself staying up into the wee hours of the morning trying to read more. That’s a good thing, if you ask me!