★★★★☆ – 3.5/5
I finished Fangirl in late December and hope you will forgive me for the delay in posting a review.
To contextualise, for those of you who haven’t heard of it here’s the Amazon.ca blurb:
In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, 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?
So basically Cather and Wren are twins and head off to the same University together, we follow Cather’s journey with extracts from the Simon Snow books as well as Cather’s own fan-fiction (with the super-cute-I-wish-I’d-thought-of-because-it-reminds-me-of-Magicarp username: Magicath).
I liked the attempt to merge fan-fiction within a separate story but Simon Snow mirrored Harry Potter a little too much for me (don’t get me wrong I’m a huge Potter fan but I felt Snow’s story too closely resembled the series). However, despite finding the excerpts from his story a little disconnected from the overall feel of the novel I enjoyed Cather’s journey and often found a little of myself reflected in her character. She also didn’t carry the often frustrating level of angst that some YA fiction protagonists exude and I found this to be quite refreshing. Whilst Cather had anxieties, pressures, and issues that many University freshers face the novel didn’t feel like one long, whiny, obsessive diary entry and this was a pleasant surprise for me as a reader; perhaps these Simon Snow extracts helped to alleviate some of this for her and ultimately improved (for me anyway) the way she came across from a reader’s standpoint.
[THIS PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SPOILERS] The romance between Cather and Levi in particular is sweet and lends itself well to the Young Adult genre by keeping the lengthy, emotional gushing to a minimum. Of course there are cutesy, gooey, first love type scenarios and drama that I hear are typical of Rowell’s writing but overall it isn’t “please-god-stop-I-think-I’m-gonna-vom” level gross and I was pleased by how balanced the relationship progression was between the two of them.
I was glad of the flaws that presented in each and every character I encountered: Cather with her social anxiety, Levi’s trouble with reading, Wren’s partying, it all made for fairly believable (or at least familiar) characters and it was nice to not be dealing with a veritable Prince Charming. My only criticism on this is that I still feel some characters (Courtney, Reagan, Jandro) could’ve benefited from a little more depth and interest from the writer.
In terms of the way it ended I feel like there was a little left to be desired. The ending almost feels like you’ve been a part of just a snapshot of their lives despite the concrete starting point. Elements of the story seem forgotten or underdeveloped: what ends up happening with Laura and the girls? Who is the girl in pink Uggs? Does professor Piper ever learn to appreciate fan-fiction? Does the girl in the library ever discover she was raving about Magicath to Magicath? These little elements frustrated me, and I do apologise if I just missed their resolution.
Overall I settled on a four for Fangirl because I enjoyed it so much, it was a fast read and its interest in a modern phenomenon set it apart from others in its genre by making it slightly nuanced and perfectly unique.
If you liked Fangirl consider reading Carry on next (I know I will be).
’till next time, #happyreading