Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Overall Rating: 5 (xoxo)
Quick Summary: Cath has never been a fan of change. But Cath has always been the ultimate fan of the Simon Snow series, writing fan fiction that has garnered thousands of followers online. As Cath and her twin sister Wren begin college, Cath struggles with the autonomy of growing up. As her sister copes with change in her own way, Cath must figure out where her world begins and ends, especially as her conception of writing is challenged by her fiction professor.
This book has a lot going on in it. It deals in some pretty weighty issues like college binge drinking, sibling relationships, mental illness, and what constitutes creative writing and plagiarism. With all of these topics floating along in a 445 page book some are going to fall by the wayside. There are some questions that never get answered, like what exactly happens to Wren at that party (I won’t be more specific because I don’t want to spoil anything), or what happened with Cath’s dad that triggers an intervention. Despite these unanswered questions, I didn’t feel troubled by them. The way Rainbow Rowell crafts her story it makes sense that I don’t know everything, because Cath doesn’t know everything. Reading the world through Cath’s eighteen-year-old eyes, she isn’t interested in knowing all the details because they get in the way of her ability to deal with her relationships.
Cath is a terribly flawed character in many ways, but she is trying, and I love that. She makes mistakes, but she doesn’t make the same ones over and over again. While some may find this idealistic, I thought Cath is terribly brave and lovable. I was rooting for her all the way, and I was rooting for her in a way that extended beyond having her first “real” boyfriend (the “romance”) to writing her first creative fiction piece and building a strong relationship with her roommate.
I found Rowell’s portrayal of the first college romance so realistic. I, too, was a virgin upon arriving to college and while it was a religious thing, it was also about how important authentic relationships were to me. I didn’t want to deal in casual kisses and embraces, just like Cath. And I remember vividly how slowly my first romance blossomed. Cath and Levi are so quintessentially true to each other and to listening to their inner sense of self. Levi is comfortable with who he is and while Cath is getting there, I love how she thinks about whether or not she’s ready to embark on a physical relationship. Levi is so supportive of her quirks and insecurities; I wish I had dated a Levi early in my life too. Their relationship brings a beautiful balance to a novel that would otherwise be too weighty. While their relationship creates an element of hopeful anxiety, it is so sweet and optimistic that it evens out the pain of failed parental relationships and worries about mental illness.
Is it worth buying? (Kindle $9.99)
It’s pretty rare for me to give out a five star rating, so a part of me screams “yes! This book is absolutely worth it.” But another part of me cringes at paying $10 for an ebook. I think I bought the book when it was on sale, but now I can’t remember. So I’m going to go with yes, since clearly I bought it at some point, but if you can find it at your local library or used book store, I’d go with that too.
Something else you might enjoy:
Obviously you should read Rowell’s other young adult books, like Eleanor and Park. Beyond that, you should try out Amy Harmon’s books. I’ve reviewed a few here on this blog, but I think Making Faces is a great one after Fangirl.