Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


FangirlTitle: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Genre: YA contemporary, Coming of Age,

Publication Date: September 10, 2013

Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis: 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?

☆: 3/5 stars – Why don’t I get the hype?

Having just been through my first year of college, Cath’s basic story is familiar enough. Of course, I didn’t experience the dilemma of being a BNF fanfic writer in college, but being on your own and not being terribly interested in what college offers because you’re doing your own thing? Totally me. In fact, this review is told with a lot of personal anecdotes because the intersection of my very recent college experience and my usual reviewer’s eye colored my perspective a certain way.

Cath is a well-developed heroine who has her rough edges and is a little too soft for her own good, but her personality rubs me the wrong way and made me unwilling to invest much in her. It’s explicitly stated Cath doesn’t want to make new friends, which is a little ridiculous to me. She blows off invitations to eat dinner with other people only to go eat by herself shortly thereafter and looks down her nose at the people trying to be friendly with her and include her in stuff.

Contrast that with me. Cath and I have the same people issues and the same dedication to our writing that sometimes takes precedence over people. Even then, I blew off invitations to eat with people not because I wanted to keep people away but because I’m ashamed of my picky eating. The time I spent in my room writing or goofing off got away from me and by the end of the year, I’m certain my hallmates hated me when I felt awkward around them to begin with. My stupid assumptions caused me to fight with my roommates and you don’t need to know how sad I was when I learned everyone in the hallway went out together and no one breathed a word to me.

If anyone gets Cath’s people issues and first-time-in-college issues, I do. It’s so FRUSTRATING to see someone with the same issues seek out all the wrong solutions and never fix the root problem. As bad as my first year was peoplewise (one of my roommates was such a pig I had to clean the bathroom TWICE and she let her massive mess spill out of her room), I still made great friends and look forward to seeing them again. This is why I have no sympathy for Cath and never invested myself in her story: because we’re so similar and quite honestly, I may have had it worse than her and still handled it all better. Six hours from home vs. Cath’s one and she never experienced anxiety that caused her months of debilitating physical pain and exhaustion.

Didn’t I say this was going to be Anecdote City?

Now, less anecdotes, more criticism. Rowell’s writing is decent enough and allows her multi-layered characters to take center stage. For character-driven novels, this is exactly the kind of writing that works even if it’s a little bland sometimes. Rowell’s writing is also a little weird sometimes. Consider gems like these:

“The squirrels on campus were beyond domestic; they were practically domestically abusive (ARC, ~10%).” (This being because people feed them a lot and they like the beg for food.)

“Sometimes the intimacy and affection in [her boyfriend’s] voice were too much for Cath. Sometimes she felt like he was talking to them like her dad talked to her and Wren. Like they were both his girls (ARC, ~70%).” (Comparing how Levi speaks to Cath to how her dad speaks to her squicked me out. Bad comparison.)

There are also heroic blushes, fetal smiles, and too many other out-of-place moments to count. It’s supposed to be fun but it more often comes out strangely. There are moments where it breaks the fourth wall to tell us about the college routine, life, etc. Not only is it not breaking the wall well (it’s so much fun when the fourth wall gets broken, but it’s best used in a comedic way, in my opinion), it makes me unsure if it’s Cath looking down on all this or the narrator themselves.

But in short, this is the real reason I didn’t like Fangirl, readers: I am actually Grumpy Cat and have fooled you since before you knew I existed. Suckers.

Grumpy Cat

One thought on “Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  1. I’ve been worried about reading this, actually. I didn’t read Eleanor and Park. It just didn’t seem like my thing and all the hype over it turned me off. Fangirl actually sounded good, but I worried the heroine would annoy me. Is she whiny? I can stand “bad choices” but not whiny.

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