📑 Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
"Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they're off to university and Wren's decided she doesn't want to be one half of a pair any more - she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It's not so easy for Cath. She's horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a romance far more intense than anything she's experienced in real life. Now Cath has to decide whether she's ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she's realizing that there's more to learn about love than she ever thought possible ... A tale of fanfiction, family, and first love" - From Goodreads
You know how sometimes, you find a character in a book, and automatically think, that's me, this exact person is me? Never mind that the character is an 18 year-old white american popular fanfiction writer in her freshman year of college with a twin sister, absent mother and manic father.
That was me with Cath and Fangirl. Now, I've said it before and I'll say it again, i'm not much for literary fiction, YA or otherwise, but I don't know if it's Rainbow Rowell, or Cath as a character but Fangirl got to me in a way that few other literary ya novels have.
Hi, I"m A of JAF, and I've been a fangirl for as long as I can remember, even now, at 26 years of age. When I fall in love with a fictional universe. I do it mind, body and soul. And, it doesn't matter how much older I got or when the last time I read/watched/encountered something from that universe, there's a place in my heart dedicated to it forever.
I (still) ship Buffy/Angel and, as I grew older (yeah Harry Potter came later to me than Buffy), Dramione (that's Draco/Hermione, don't judge...this is why I won't tell you who else I shipped with Hermione :-p). I even wrote Harry Potter fanfiction at some point, because I knew the characters, because I wanted to see them in certain situations that I wouldn't be able to see them in canon. And, maybe most of all, because in the long stretch of time between the release of each book, I wanted them to come to life again, even if this coming to life would only exist in my imagination.
See why I connected to Cath?
Reading Fangirl reminded me of that connection, of that visceral love for a thing that isn't real, and other people around you might not understand, but that shapes you nonetheless. Cath used the world of Simon Snow, and her writing as an escape, but those two things also manifest into her way to connect (and, in some cases, reconnect) not just with 'online' friends, but with the people who are physically in her life. It takes time and effort and a lot of overcoming some crippling anxiety that doesn't necessarily go away entirely (because, let's be real, that wouldn't be realistic), but it happens, and it's a wonderful progress to watch.
Even the secondary characters stood out, Reagan with her unflinching bluntness that made her so much more endearing when you realize she cares, Levi and his widow's peak hair, Wren and her own methods of coping, pushing away those closest to her to avoid facing reality much like Cath does, but in a more self-destructive way, Nick and his...well, you'll see.
Fangirl is a story is very much about Cath, but it's also about everyone who would rather spend time with books and writing than live in the real world, because the real world is unpredictable and frightening, and it's about the people around you that make it just a little more bearable to put those books away. Rowell brings those feelings of stress and friendship and love to life through Cath, and documents (for lack of a better word) her progress through her first year of college, (which, as Levi points out, is basically a lifetime) in an impressively relatable way, interspersing that journey with snippets of both the fictional Simon Snow series, as well as Cath's own fanfiction based on the series.
One of my favourite things was reading those snippets and trying to guess whether they were 'real' or Cath's writing, as well as seeing the tone and feel of Cath's writing evolve, seeing the change from when she wrote with Wren, to the start of her college career, and past Reagan and Levi's influence in her life.
I quite liked Eleanor & Park, but Fangirl struck a deeper cord with me, and I think it will with a lot of people out there. A big part of it was, I think, the fact that at the end of the day it teaches you that you can 'grow,' whether that means in the 'being an adult' sense or simply as a person, without necessarily leaving everything you loved, that might be considered childish or immature by some people, behind. You can swoon over fictional characters and discuss references and motivations and buy memorabilia and go in cosplay to a midnight showings and cry over deaths, while still progressing/excelling so to speak, in the 'real' world. You can be a fan, whatever that may mean to you as a person.
(Some) Memorable Quotes:
“I don’t want to kiss a stranger,” Cath would answer. “I am not interested in lips out of context.”
“How do you not like the Internet? That’s like saying, 'I don’t like things that are convenient. And easy. I don’t like having access to all of mankind’s recorded discoveries at my fingertips. I don’t like light. And knowledge.”
“Sometimes writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity.”
“There are other people on the Internet. It’s awesome. You get all the benefits of 'other people’ without the body odor and the eye contact.”
If anyone has read Fangirl let us know what you think in the comments below! Comments also open to further book/movie/show recommendations, anything you’d like to see reviewed, or general feedback. We’d love to hear what you have to say!