Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Summary (goodreads): 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?

Review:

I first read about this book on a friend’s blog where she wrote that this was one of the books that just are perfect for you as a reader. “You know how you have a few books that are just like your books?” is what she wrote and that was exactly what made me read Fangirl, too. (See her post here)

It is indeed one of those books for me. The heroine (or rather anti-heroine) is an insecure, introverted and creative person who is not confident when it comes to socializing. Being apart from her twin sister for the first time ever, she struggles even more. I could totally see myself in this character. Because I am all those things, too. I hate being in an unfamiliar environment where I don’t know anybody nor the status quo. Being around too many people stresses me out and I love drifting into different universes via movies, books or fan fiction. Granted, I never actually wrote any fan fiction like Cath, but I could totally understand why she does what she does. (Although I’m not so awkward that I’d rather live on energy bars instead of finding the dinner hall to eat there.)

The other characters are also very well developed and relatable. The twin sister who is actually very different from Cath, the weird room mate who appears to be direct and brusque but is actually a warm and caring person at heart. The father who is a bit crazy and about whom Cath worries constantly – did he eat dinner or just forgot about it?

And then there’s Levi. I adore this character. He is funny, smart, genuinely caring and smiles at everybody. Also, he is handsome but not of the Edward-I-glitter-in-the-sun sort of way, but more of the average-guy-next-door handsome. He has its flaws and I love how acknowledging these flaws makes Cath just like him more.

To me, this is actually one of the key messages of the book. That everybody has some flaws, minor or major – and that there will still be a person who loves you and stays at your side. I like how both the judgmental and the understanding perspective get screen time. For example, there are people who think that writing fan fiction is a terrible waste of time, a sort of plagiarism and generally embarrassing. Then there are others who respect a creative person and the love for a certain fandom and encourage that.

The writing is flowing easily, I just kept reading on and on and on. There’s a good mixture between dialogue, description and inner thoughts, the language doesn’t seem forced. It just felt like actual real life stuff (maybe it isn’t but I’ve never been to an American College so I just imagine it’s not too far from the truth).

The exceptional thing about this book is the snippets of fan fiction in between the chapters. The story of Simon Snow itself is just fabricated, though loosely based on Harry Potter. Between the chapters, there are parts of the “original story” and parts from Cath’s fan fiction. I LOVED that. It made it just so much more believable. For some reason I ended up really wanting to know what happened to Simon and Baz and I was a bit sad realizing it’s not ACTUALLY a story. Too bad. I know it wasn’t the best writing ever and some people say that since Cath is supposed to be one of the best FF writers out there, those snippets are just terrible. I don’t agree. I liked them as a portrayal of teenage fan fiction writing. I’ve read much worse and not many that are much better, so all was good.

The story is not incredibly deep, it is about Cath’s journey into adulthood (not only hers, but the people around her as well). It is a story about love, yes. But it is not one of those crash-and-burn romances. This is about friendship first, and love developing from there. I have to say that I was disappointed in the ending. It was open and the reader can decide for themselves what they make of it, I guess. I never liked open endings. I always want it to be finished, to have a clear message. (And I REALLY wanted to read the end of Carry on, Simon!) But it somewhat made sense to leave it like that.

So in conclusion, I loved the book, I could relate to Cath (though there were moments where I would have decided differently) and I liked the characters around her. The book is a fun and yet thoughtful read not just for people who are familiar with fan fiction but also for everyone else. Although it might help to understand Cath to know the feeling of loving a fandom to bits. I certainly do.

For Fangirl, I award 4 out of 5!

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