Saturday, October 5, 2013

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I just want to start off by saying, how gosh darn cute is that cover? Not that I'm too surprised by it, especially after reading Rainbow Rowell's "Eleanor & Park", which was ridiculously cute. And I don't mean 'cute' in the belittling, patronizing way. Oh no. What I love about Ms. Rowell's books is that sure, they're cute, but they have a darker undertone in them, one that tells her readers about the unpleasant realities in life. And that's what life is: at times, it can be gushingly cute, and in others, it can be a real slap in the face. "Fangirl" was released just last month, and of course I had to get my grubby hands on it. And when I did, I found myself sucked into yet another fantastic story about real, human life.

Cath is sure of three things in life. First, she doesn't know what she'd do without her twin, Wren. Second, starting college stinks. And third, she is irrevocably, undeniably a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her entire life--and she's really good at it. In fact, her Simon Snow fan fiction has won her a more than a few fans of her own. But when the time to start freshman year in college hits, and Wren begins to move away from fandom, Cath finds herself entirely on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. With only her laptop as her sole constant companion, Cath needs to face huge changes ahead. The question is, can she do it? Is she ready to start her own life, write her own stories? And does she even want to, if it means having to leave Simon Snow behind?

I think I can confidently say now that I love Ms. Rowell's characters. They're not perfect--not even close. They can be awkward, self-conscious, not the prettiest person on the street... you get the picture. But this is precisely what makes them so undeniably real. You could probably tell this already from the synopsis, but Cath is most definitely not the perfect girl. She prefers the fiction world to the real world, and finds a lot of difficulty in adjusting to changes. And in this, I found a little bit of myself in it! Having started my own freshman year in college, I was really able to relate to what Cath was going through. Finding your niche, homesickness, settling into a completely different lifestyle--these were all things I'd experienced, and still am! It's this moment of connection between a character and yourself, when you go, "Hey, she's a little like me!", that you truly begin to relate and become invested in. You can even begin to learn from Cath's story and become inspired to do something in your own life--just like how I got a little kick in the butt to get writing, just like how Cath was. There's just something almost magical about these kinds of deep connections with a character in a book, and for that alone, I'm actually grateful to Ms. Rowell--and Cath!

The rest of the characters in "Fangirl" are just as equally as amazing, I don't even know where to start! Wren is the perfect complement to Cath. Sure, they're twins, but Wren's always been the more outgoing, confident one in the pair. When she begins to put herself out there more in college, she becomes a great foil for Cath, and it's intriguing and heartbreaking all at once to see how their relationship changes throughout the course of the novel. You also have Reagan, Cath's surly roommate who oozes sexuality and a devil-may-care attitude, and I loved seeing their friendship/roommateship develop as well. Then there's Cath and Wren's dad, who's loving but fragile after their mom left them. It is so sweet to read about the bond between Cath and her dad, how the filial dynamics aren't quite what we're used to seeing in our own lives or even in other books. They're protective of each other, and it just makes me miss my own parents more (dammit, Ms. Rowell!). There's also Nick, Cath's writing partner in her Fiction-Writing class. And then, of course, you have Levi, Reagan's charming, perpetually-smiling boyfriend who's always hanging out in their room. Lemme just say that this is one amazing cast of characters--one you'll fall in love with and shake your head at and laugh with, all at once.

Ms. Rowell has done a wonderful job in creating a great storyline that remains compelling and exciting throughout, even if there are no blood-pumping action scenes or anything of that sort. Everything is so fluid and smooth, it's like you're just there with Cath the entire time as the story progresses, no bumps that jerk you out of the story. I think this is a really important aspect of any realistic fiction, this fine balance between boring and unbelievable, and Ms. Rowell is awesome at keeping her readers engaged. I did feel like some parts, especially toward the middle, were a little dragged on, but it never did so to the extent that I got bored. I also love, love, love the way the chapters of the novel alternated with little excerpts from Simon Snow books or Cath's writing--they tie in together in such subtle ways and enhance the novel as a whole! Not to mention that ending. Just, wow. It floored me.

All in all, "Fangirl" is a fantastic coming-of-age novel that you have to go pick up at a bookstore now. With an incredibly relatable protagonist, a dynamic and exciting cast of characters, and some amazing storytelling, it's a read that's not to be missed.

Rating: 5/5

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