Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (review copy) - WARNING! Some might consider this review to have minor spoilers (though I don't really think so.)
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.
Without Wren Cath is completely on her own and totally outside her comfort zone. She's got a surly room-mate 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.
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 ... From Goodreads
Being such a huge fan of Rowell's Eleanor and Park and Attachments, and hearing everyone rave about Fangirl, I was absolutely, positively, of-course-how-could-there-be-any-doubt going to read it. And it was amazing! Yet, strangely, at the same time, there were parts of the book I really weren't that interested in. With the description above, no summary is needed, so I'll just jump right in.
Fangirl is a fantastic NA novel, one that's more than just a romance. Cath has to cope with her identity as a writer, her failing relationship with her twin sister, Wren, worrying about her bipolar dad, and dealing with the fact her mother suddenly wants to be in their lives again after ten years being out of it. And there's uni work. This makes it sound like Fangirl is pretty heavy, but it's not. There is a lot of light in this book, so many funny, sweet, and absolutely beautiful moments. Getting to know Cath and the other cast of characters was like a gift, and I really grew to love them.
Cath is very shy and socially inept. She doesn't know how to make friends, she doesn't like putting herself out there or drawing any kind of attention to herself. She's quite happy staying in her room with her laptop writing her fan fiction. But her roommate Reagan - surly, lovingly critical, hilarious Reagan (oh my god, I love Reagan!) - takes her under her wing, and a more spunky, witty Cath starts to emerge when she feels a little more comfortable. But she's still quiet, and worries, and just doesn't know most of the time. She sounds frustrating, but I love her. I kind of want to adopt her as a younger sister and give her a hug.
And then we have Levi. The Levi. You know what I like most about Levi? He's just a normal guy. He's not breath-takingly gorgeous. He's not a bad boy. He's not even particularly great with words. He's just Levi; a nice, smiley, great guy, who is kind of adorable. He's not a fictional-guy that will give readers unrealistic expectations of romance and boys. Levi is the kind of guy girls should be hoping to meet. And he's also the kind of guy you could actually meet. Levi's exist - as in, nice guys who actually care, but are perfectly normal, exist. He is just so genuinely real. I love that about him. I love him. That is all. There really is no need to say anything else. Levi, Levi, Levi. *sighs* And Cath and Levi together? Heartbreaking sweet and beautiful and ohmygod!
But as I said, there's more to Fangirl than just the romance. Her dad. God, her dad. Your heart breaks for completely different reasons when it comes to reading about him. He is so vulnerable. With him, it almost feels like you're waiting, with the clock audibly ticking, waiting for him to breakdown. Most of the time, he's fine, but his fine is him being a lot. He doesn't relax, unless he's running. He's always working, ideas are simmering. He doesn't stop, he doesn't sleep. It's work, work, work. He's exhausting! And with her mother wanting to be in their lives again, everything is turned topsy-turvy. This family is broken because she walked out, every one of them has been effected, and now she wants to know them? She made me so bloody angry! Seriously, I just... there are no words! It's sad. But as I said, so many beautiful moments!
So, now, what I wasn't interested in. Fan fiction. Really not my bag. I don't get it. I've read some, and I just don't get it. It frustrates me beyond imagining. I am all, "You're ruining a perfectly good story by changing things that do not need changing!" 'Ruining' might be a strong word, but I get being attached to a story and it's characters, and I feel strongly about them as they are, and just... no. I don't want it. I'm not anti-fan fiction, I don't think people shouldn't write it. Kudos to those who do and do well with it. I just that I have no interest in it, and won't read it. I simply do not get it. Nor why someone would want to write it.
Cath is a fan fiction writer. Her stories take up a lot of her head space. The book is called Fangirl, for crying out loud, it's a huge part of the story. What did I expect?! But I didn't enjoy the parts where she was obsessing over it, writing it, I have got to finish! I could understand her being attached to books that she thought were awesome - of course, I'm a book blogger, I am forever talking about the books I love. But writing her own stories? Meh. Give me more Levi, Reagan, Wren and her Dad. But writing fan fiction is who Cath is. It's a huge part of her. So there was no escaping it. Not to mention that I really love her. Thankfully, she has a lot of other things going on in her life, so it wasn't too often that several pages of the book were focusing solely on Carry On, Simon, her fan fiction story.
And yet... I finished the book thinking it might be nice to maybe try and write my own short story. Maybe. I felt inspired to write with all the talking about writing. Mostly the talk about Cath writing for her Fiction Writing class. I could probably do that. Maybe.
Over all, an amazing book, despite the fan fiction. I really, really loved it! Definitely the kind of book I would read again. I seriously want a US edition though. Of all Rowell's books. They're just gorgeous. Just like the Fangirl is. Gorgeous.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan for the review copy.
Published: 30th January 2014
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
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