Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: Fangirl

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Published September 10th 2013 by St. Martin's Press

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?
*An ARC was provided by St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review*

Fangirl was my first contemporary read in over ten years (no joke!) - I've made it no secret that my reading habits always tend to lead me towards fantasy/sci-fi books.  Naturally, this was also my first experience with author Rainbow Rowell and I have to start off by giving her props for creating such living, breathing and incredibly relatable characters that not only tugged at my heartstrings, but kept me engaged till the very last page.

Not surprisingly, I was attracted to the fan-fiction aspect of Fangirl.  I consider myself as being a part of many fandoms, so I was intrigued by the idea of a main character who is as obsessive as I am.  Now I've never read *that* much HP fan-fic - I always preferred just re-reading the series instead -but I have read some.  Reading this book kind of made me wish I'd been on board with all that HP-fic when it was going down. I did find it a bit odd that this Simon Snow character was clearly supposed to be a reference to Harry Potter but that HP still existed in this world...but beyond that I thought the fandom aspect here was very well done.  It was especially entertaining to me that the MC Cath's fan-fic was all about Simon and Baz together, especially going in knowing all about Harry/Draco fan-fics out there!  I do think that Simon/Baz would have been adequate Harry/Draco substitutes and that the real Harry Potter world wouldn't have needed referencing here at all, but this is a minor issue, so let's move on...

I want to talk about the characters because to me, this is where Fangirl shines. Starting with the main character Cath. I can not tell you in any words that I possess how much my heart went out to Cath.  I just can't.  She was so unbelievably relatable to me, her awkwardness, her anxiety, her obsessive fangirling, her antisocialness.  All of it just spoke to me, especially the 'me' at Cath's age in Fangirl, fresh out of high school and starting Uni with all her quirks and issues.  And while I was never quite as far gone as Cath was, I could certainly relate to her issues all too well.  I just wanted to wrap my arms around her and hold her...if I knew that doing that wouldn't have made her uncomfortable of course ;-)

So yeah, Cath goes off on her own and has to deal with so many things she's clearly not ready to face.  Being on her own, dealing with a new roommate, classmates, teachers, PEOPLE.   Because of her social anxiety, she escapes into fanfiction as a way of dealing (or not dealing) with her issues.  As much as her struggles hurt my heart and made me tear up a few times, I was rooting for her. Hard.  Despite all the obstacles she faced, I still found Cath to be quite brave -and I admired her a lot for it.  She was also intelligent, observant, honest and caring.  She's easily one of the MC's I've most identified with in recent memory and I just love her for it.

Besides Cath, there is a host of likeable characters to be had here.  From Regan, Cath's tough and sometimes harsh roommate, Wren, Cath's twin sister who's got her own issues to deal with. And then there's this boy. Levi.  I'm not even going to start on Levi since it will cue endless gushing and 'awwww'-ing. Even though he infuriated me for a bit there, I was rooting for him too. I just really loved all of these characters dearly and to me they were the real heart of this book; it's core. They were all incredibly human and memorable characters and I couldn't get enough of them  Whether they were study buddies, teachers or parents, they were all so real and I loved getting to know every single one of them - even the ones that I didn't like.The writing style in Fangirl was compulsively readable.  It made me laugh out loud at times, tear up at others and it even had me wanting to stand up and cheer a few times!  The banter between the characters was adorable, swoon-worthy and had all the right ingredients to make you giggle one moment and sob the next.  Yes this book brought on a lot of feels but it was so worth it in the end.

My only other concern here was how abruptly it seemed everything ended.  Sometimes when a book ends, it's perfect but you don't want it to end.  That wasn't the case here because to me it felt like everything stopped juuust short of their proper resolution. Or maybe I just needed more closure after growing to care for Cath and everyione else so much. To me, it seemed like the plot wrapped up too quickly in some places: like Cath's school project, her finishing up Simon Snow, the physical aspect of her romance... not to mention her ongoing issues with both parents. All of these issues felt like they deserved a bit more time story-wise to conclude in a truly satisfying way.

All things considered, this was a successful venture for me! Contemporaries aren't my strong suit, but I was still easily taken in by the witty dialogue and engaging characters.   It also read a lot quicker than I was expecting and now that I've finished Fangirl, I feel like reading all the Rainbow Rowell books!  Although knowing me, I'll need to space them out with a few fantasy reads in between ;-)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

MHAM

16 comments:

  1. I'm like you - I don't read much contemporary, but Rainbow's writing completely draws me in! I've only read Fangirl and Attachments by Rainbow and I already know she's one of my favorite authors!

    I loved reading your review of Fangirl because I felt the same way about Cath and the other characters. This book is so relatable and endearing! Great review!

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    1. Yeah I definitely want to read Attachments, Eleanor & Part and Landlines now. I wasn't expecting to be drawn in this much to a contemporary read but I was pleasantly surprised!

      Thanks so much Charlene and I agree with you, the characters here were so real to me they felt like they lept off the pages and into my life :) I enjoyed learning about them all - even the ones I didn't like all that much hehe

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  2. I've only read Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, but loved it. And like you, the fan fiction aspect of this is really getting my attention. I need to put it on my list to pick up at the library. Great review!

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    1. Thanks so much Lisa! Yup, I've added Attachments, Eleanor & Park and Landlines to my tbr shelf now hehe but Fangirl seemed like a good intro to RR because of the fanfic XD I hope you'll enjoy it too when you get around to reading it!

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  3. I'm so happy to see you enjoyed this! I really loved it, but contemporaries are kinda my thing. :) Great review!

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    1. I am too Lisa, and who knows: this might have just been my gateway read to lure me back to contemporaries...on occasion ;-) Thanks for stopping by!!

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  4. I am glad you enjoyed this one :) I really liked the dialogue and overall realistic nature of the book. I have never read fan fiction before so that was a bit different for me! Great Review

    Ashley @ The Quiet Concert

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    1. Thanks Ashley! And I agree with you, the dialogue and realistic characters were easily my favorite bits about this book! Though the fanfic bits were good fun too :)

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  5. I think Cath and I will go along just fine. I don't like the sound of that ending, but I think I will like this book. Especially because I'm more inclined to read fantasy books like you :) Thanks for the review!

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    1. I think you will too Mel! And yeah the ending felt very sudden but overall I still loved getting to know the characters and all the feels they brought on (especially Cath) I'll be curious to see how you make out with it seeing as we both tend to prefer our fantasy reads :) xxxx

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  6. Wow, was this really your first contemporary read in over 10 years? I see you've managed to avoid the genre even more adeptly that I have then! I would be in your position too if I didn't feel the need to jump on the bandwagon every time I hear about the newest hot contemporary out there even though it's outside my comfort zone. I'm easily swayed, what can I say? But ANYWAYS. Soooo happy this sojourn into contemporary was a success and it makes me happy that Fangirl was the book that got you to read the genre because I just adored it so much and it meant so much to me. Cath was also hugely relatable to me, especially when I was in my first year of university. I would also say that she's the MC that I've identified with most in a long time. I haven't made any further headway on Rainbow's books myself yet, but I also adored her writing and characters and can't wait to read more from her... eventually! Great job with this review, Micheline :)

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    1. Yup! Maybe even longer! I use to read them in high school but after my 'dark-ages' of not reading for fun in Uni, when I picked up again I was only reading fantasy. Reading just doesn't feel as satisfying to me when it's based in real life, I need the escape of fantasy I guess ;-D I figured Fangirl was a good place to start because of the fangirling and fanfic elements to it haha And I have to say, Cath is probably one of THE most relatable MC's I've come across in like for ever. All of the characters in this one were just brilliant, I can't wait to read more from RR! Thanks Aylee xxxx

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  7. I am so happy so happy that you loved this one too. It's such a special book, it has such wonderful elements and .. I loved the relationship with Levi so much. I loved seeing her crow and face her problems, I just loved to spend time with them.

    Your review, made me want to read it all over again.

    Oh and I saw your comment above:
    I also love to escape into fantasy worlds, that is where I can completely get lost it.

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    1. Aw thanks Danny! I agree, the characters, especially Chat and Levi (and their relationship) was just so special, not to mention engaging! Getting to know them and watch them grow was a real treat! But yeah, to me fantasy worlds are the only stories that truly take hold of me and like you said: it's where I can completely get lost in them :D

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  8. I had some of the same exact issues you did. Why does Harry Potter exist in this world? It doesn't make sense. And that final project/finishing the fan fiction really did seem to be wrapped up too quickly. But, like you, I also really loved this book!

    I've only gotten into contemporary in the past couple of years--I'm all about the sci-fi, and really getting into fantasy now, too. But I do love contemporary now, too, and Rainbow Rowell is definitely great at it. I loved Eleanor & Park and Landline even more than Fangirl, but I still loved Fangirl too. Hope you find lots more contemporaries that you love! Great review!

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    1. Well I'm glad I'm not the only one bothered by those things but like you it didn't really affect my overall enjoyment with this book :D As much as I don't think contemporaries will ever get my heart like fantasy/sci-fi books, I am excited to have gotten into the genre again after so long. Eleanor & Park and Landline are both on my wishlist/tbr shelf and I've also heard they're even better than Fangirl,which is exciting! Thanks for stopping by Andrea! xxxx

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