REVIEW | Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

REVIEW | Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirl

This book. This. Freaking. Book. I promise I’m going to get more articulate in a minute, it’s just… this book, bro/ladybro.

Ahem.

So if you haven’t gathered from the above, I adored Fangirl. This review is basically going to be a list of all the things I loved about it and why, and if you didn’t like it then you should probably leave now, because my fangirling (see what I did there?) is probably going to get on your nerves.

If you haven’t read this book then you should. I’ll try to explain why before I get into spoilers and politely ask you to leave. Cath and Wren are twin sisters from Omaha who are starting college. Wren is an extrovert who wants to meet new people and get drunk and spend some time being Wren, not Wren-and-Cath. Cath… not so much. She doesn’t really know how to deal with the fact that Wren doesn’t want to be her room mate, and as the book begins she’s feeling pretty rejected. She doesn’t especially feel like she needs new people in her life, and she doesn’t want to try to make friends.

Cath is also, as the title indicates, a massive fangirl. If there weren’t copyright issues involved, then she would be a Harry/Draco shipper. Since Rowell doesn’t want to get sued, Cath loves Simon and Baz from fantasy series Simon Snow, which details the adventures of Simon trying to defeat the big bad Humdrum while attending a boarding school for wizards. She’s one of the most popular writers on the site FanFixx.net, and she’s desperately trying to finish writing her version of the story’s conclusion before the last book comes out.

Here is a brief non-spoilery list of awesome things about this book:

  • The characterisation is so perfect that I genuinely struggle to believe that these people don’t actually exist.
  • The depiction of parent/teenager relationships is also perfect.
  • The pop culture referencing is some of the best and least clunky that I’ve ever seen.
  • The romance is made of adorableness.
  • At no point are fangirls or fandoms judged or looked down upon. At no point is it suggested that Cath has to stop writing fanfiction before she can have other experiences, or that her love of a fantasy world needs to be reduced before she can love things and people in the real world.

Okay, now if you haven’t read the book, you need to leave now. Please close the door behind you, I wouldn’t want to disturb the neighbours with my uncontrollable squeeing.

SPOILERS AHEAD, PROCEED WITH CAUTION!

Okay, now I’m going to run through the points I made above again, but with detail this time. So first up, the characterisation. These people are all so human! They all have issues and things they struggle with (off the top of my head, Cath and interaction with strangers, Wren and alcohol, Art and manic depression, Laura and motherhood, Levi and reading, Reagan and romantic relationships, Nick and not being a selfish asshole), but they also care about each other, they want to figure things out. This is what people do. They come with a load of baggage and they accidentally smack other people with it and then they’re sorry because they hurt someone but also defensive because they didn’t mean to. This is also true in Rowell’s other YA book, Eleanor and Park, which I also highly recommend, but I think it’s even better in this one. There are so many characters and so many relationships going on, and never once did I forget who felt what about who and why. Every voice is distinct, every moral position makes some kind of sense (even the moral position of being an asshole), every relationship is the way it is for a reason, and every action has a cause and an effect.

Speaking of realistic relationships, let’s talk about Art and Laura. Art could have been written so differently. He could have been a perfect father figure, the one who stuck around when his wife took off, who brought up his daughters all on his own and fulfilled all possible parental roles so well that Cath and Wren never even thought to wish that their mom was around. Or he could have been written as a crazy person, unable to function without his daughters holding him up, selfishly insisting that his artistic personality requires that everyone forgive him for failing to take adequate care of his children. Instead, Rowell writes him with nuance and understanding. He loves his girls very much, and he’s done his best for them, but his mental illness is not under his control, and sometimes he needs them to take care of him. Cath and Wren do not begrudge him this, but they are not always sure how to deal with the situation. Cath worries, and isn’t sure that she should be away from home at all, even though that’s what Art wants for her. Wren is sure that he will be fine, as he always has been before, and hates being dragged away from college for a situation that seems to her not worth getting anxious over.

And then there’s Laura. She’s harder to empathise with, because Cath doesn’t want to empathise with her, but she still feels very human. She didn’t intend to be a mother, and she prioritises her own needs above those of her daughters, and Cath can’t forgive her for it. I think my favourite aspect of this arc is that Cath is allowed to just not want a relationship with her mother. She’s allowed to say no, and to walk away. Laura walked away first, and Cath is not obliged to want to heal the relationship that someone else broke just because that relationship happens to be with her mother.

To explain what I love about the pop culture referencing, I’m just going to point out the perfection that is this exchange:

Regan was sitting at Cath’s desk when Cath woke up.
“Are you awake?”
“Have you been watching me sleep?”
“Yes, Bella. Are you awake?”
“No.”

Now, allow me to rewrite it worse, and less like how people actually talk, but the way I would have expected to find it in a book:

Regan was sitting at Cath’s desk when Cath woke up.
“Are you awake?”
“Have you been watching me sleep?”
“Yes, Bella,” said Regan, referencing the creepy scene in the
Twilight Saga when Edward does just that. “Are you awake?”
“No. I hate
Twilight.”

You feel me? ‘Nuff said.

Cath and Levi are incredibly adorable, and their romance is beautifully crafted and developed. I don’t really feel the need to talk in detail about the way it’s built up, or the intensity of the feels it gave me. You’ve read the book. You know. What I do want to say is that towards the end, after they got together, I got really anxious. There were, I thought, too many pages left for them to be allowed to just continue to be happy together, but not enough for a proper conflict and resolution that would leave me satisfied. I didn’t need to be worried. This book wasn’t supposed to end with the couple finally getting together and kisses as the curtain closed. This book was about (amongst other things) Cath developing relationships with new people, and her relationship with Levi was not just about them getting together. It was also about her learning to deal with intimacy and figuring out how to be in a relationship. So Rowell lets us watch her figure it out. And it’s So. Freaking. Cute.

I don’t think I have anything to add to my bullet point about the treatment of fangirls, except for the brief point that Wren, the extrovert, the party animal, did not leave Simon Snow behind forever. She didn’t even leave writing fanfiction behind forever. The cliché that all fangirls are shut ins was destroyed and trampled on in this book, and that made me very, very happy.

Let’s be honest, the whole book made me very, very happy. 5/5 stars and all the love.

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2 thoughts on “REVIEW | Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  1. I just finished this book myself! I’m posting my review in a few days, and I’m glad that I found someone who just read it! I like your take on Laura’s character. I wasn’t really sure what to make of her at first, but you’ve put it perfectly into words. Awesome review!

    Like

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