Reviews

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirl by rainbow rowell

# of Pages: 434

Time it took me to read: 4 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 62 pgs

Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Cath and her twin sister, Wren, have just started their first year of college. Wren has always been the confident one: doing whatever she wants to do, dating lots of boys, going out drinking on the weekends. Cath is pretty much the opposite: she’d much rather stay at home working on her Simon Snow fanfiction than go out and socialize. But even though Cath and Wren have had separate interests, they’ve always had each other’s back. But now Wren has her own roommate, in her separate dorm, and her entirely different classes. So Cath is on her own, and she’ll have to navigate life with a grumpy older roommate, that roommate’s overly chatty boyfriend, and an English teach who knocks on fanfiction like it’s the end of the world.

Cath has never been the resiliant twin, but this year she’ll have to learn how to navigate college on her own, and discover the middle ground between growing up, and never letting go of the things that are the most important to you.

 

I’ve never really loved realistic fiction, but every once and a while, I read a really, really good piece of realistic fiction, and it reminds me that I really should dabble in this genre more often. Rainbow Rowell, surprise surprise, totally knocked this one out of the park, and I think I enjoyed it just about as much as Carry On, even though I read them out of order. It’s not like there are spoilers or anything, but if you read Carry On after Fangirl, I imagine it’s just like getting to read Cath’s fanfiction, which would be such a cool thing if you’re a fan of Fangirl.

Fangirl is the story of Cath Avery, who’s twin sister Wren has “abandoned” her for the first time in their lives because she wanted to have a different roommate and live in a different dorm and have different friends. Cath has a lot of anxiety about this, she’s so intimidated by her upperclassman roommate and her upperclassman classmates in her fiction writing class, that she spends the first month of school subsisting entirely on protein bars that she brought from home because she is too anxious to ask anyone where the dining hall is or how it works. As someone who has gone through her life with anxiety–not this severe, but still a fair amount of anxiety, I really connected with Cath.

This story also celebrates something that I think gets looked down upon by people who aren’t a part of the community: fanfiction. Most people think fanfiction and immediately picture Fifty Shades of Gray-esque smut, or a bunch of nerdy wannabe writers who can’t write anything of their own. This book really proves that those stereotypes just that–stereotypes. Fanfiction is written and consumed by hundreds of thousands of people, and you can find it for just about anything out there with a fanbase–movies, TV shows, books, videogames, you name it. And while some of it is totally smutty, most of it is just an exploration of what could happen outside the cannon of a piece of art.

I myself am someone who spent a lot of time in her early to mid teen years writing fanfiction. And it really helped me to become the writer that I am today. Because, as you can see through Cath, being a writer of original content is really hard, and sometimes you really want to let out your creative energy, but don’t have an endless well of original characters and worlds to draw from. So we borrow characters that we adore and put them in new settings, new situations, and that not only allows us to create content without the stress of creating something totally original, but also allows you to continue to experience the characters that you love so much, but the books are over, or the TV show could have gotten cancelled. And by writing fanfiction and posting it online, you can not only get really nice praise from readers, boosting your self-esteem and drive to keep creating content, but criticism that allows you to become a better writer.

Sorry, I really didn’t mean for this review to be “why I think fanfiction is great”, but I just figured I’d put it out there, because what Cath experiences when her English teacher slams fanfiction is very common–a lot of “real writers” don’t see fanfiction as a legitimate art form, and that’s bull. I don’t think fanfiction writers should be profiting off of or publishing their work, but the fanfiction community is large and supportive, and I think that those who turn their nose up at fanfiction should be the first ones to read Fangirl and learn a thing or two.

Anyway, back to the actual review. Rowell’s characters in this book were all entirely relatable. I knew someone like every single one of these characters in college, and I could just see perfectly in my mind’s eye the campus, the dorms, the dining hall, everything. And I really can’t say enough about how much I loved that Rainbow Rowell has a cast of characters that struggle with mental illness, but have a loving, supportive group of people around them who help them through it. And I’m not a twin, but I’m sure all the twins out there who read this will appreciate that Cath and Wren, though they do have many of the same interests and have had many of the same life experiences, are two very different characters who have different ways of dealing with their mom’s absence and their dad’s issues–I imagine it would be easy to make twins seem like they’re the same person, or go too far the other way and make them opposites. Cath and Wren are harmoniously different, but enough the same that it’s believable that they had the same childhood.

I’m trying to think of something that I could criticise, but it’s really hard, because it was amazing. I guess the only thing that I could say is that, pacing wise, the first half seemed to take a lot longer to read than the second half. It’s odd, because I think that the two halves had just about an equal number of “action parts”, but something about the second half just made it flow quicker. I don’t know, this might not even be an actual problem, this book was wonderful.

This isn’t the most cohesive review I’ve ever written, but please read Fangirl. And then read Carry On, if you haven’t already. Fangirl is a wonderful story, which will appeal to both lovers of realistic fiction and lovers of fantasy alike, trust me. Any Harry Potter fan in the world will feel a real connection with Cath.

If you liked Fangirl, try: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

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