Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication date: September 10, 2013
Pages: 438
Rating: 5/5 stars 

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate 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.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Fangirl comes off as a heartwarming story of a girl during one of the most confusing times of her life: college. At first glance, it may seem like the book version of a chick flick, but it is definitely more than that. It's a story about love, forgiveness, and (most importantly) about change. 

Cath's life as a Simon Snow fangirl, and her choice to leave or not to leave her fanfiction days behind are the key pieces to the story. All the rest - the romance, the college blues, and the family issues - are equally as touching, but they mostly support Cath's overall decision for her Simon Snow fanfiction. I quickly related to Cath because I have experienced the thrill of writing fanfiction, and the pain of having to leave characters behind. Cath is not relatable only by writers of fanfiction, but also by every reader that has experienced the wonders of connecting to fictional role models. This, I think, made the novel more personal. We have all experienced not wanting to let go after reading something incredibly moving. But aside from that, we have all struggled to move on from something that we hold dear to our hearts.

For me, the novel was constructed masterfully. When you read it, you don't just read it. You get to be Cath. You actually hope Cath does the things you would want to do if you were her.  You get to make friends as her, fall in love as her. You get to feel the pain that she feels when she decides whether or not to say goodbye to Simon Snow. Rainbow Rowell has yet again made a character so beautiful and complex, that she stays embedded in our hearts and mind.

The writing was something I also liked. I could feel Cath in the words, if that makes sense. I appreciated how it didn't over-describe, yet it managed to give a clear picture of the W's: where, when, what, and why. The words used also were easy to understand, which suited the simplicity of the novel. I feel like 'flowery' and 'majestic' words would destroy the realness of Cath and her struggles. 

Another vital section of the novel is the fanfiction that Cath is writing: Simon Snow fanfiction. In a way, her fanfiction mirrors her life. I quite liked how the fanfics were made as preludes to chapters. That seemed like I was getting a glimpse inside Cath's own diary, even if it wasn't a diary. It showed how Cath felt. It showed how she preferred to express her feelings in her own unique way. It was like opening a fragile present and finally understanding why and how you should care for it.

I enjoyed Cath. Her fangirl-ish mind was fun to explore, and her development from an introverted fanfiction writer to a young woman who's ready to stand up for herself (done slowly but flawlessly) were things I truly admired. Her obsession with Simon Snow did annoy me sometimes. (Like, hello, there's a seriously hot dude in your room?!) But I guess that essential so the story could wrap itself around the idea of her nonexistent willingness to change. 

Levi, Cath's roommates ex-boyfriend who soon [spoiler alert] becomes her boyfriend, was someone who took me by surprise. I was swept away by him when he was introduced, and I was devastated when I thought he was still with Reagain. I did not, however, expect him to like Cath from the beginning. I thought a dramatic breakup scene would happen between him and Reagan, but thank goodness the novel was spared from that. Levi is the exact opposite of Cath. I felt like that was a good contrast because I would not like to see Cath with another writer-type guy.

I felt like the existence of Reagan was there to "normalize" Cath and pull her back to Earth. For me, Reagan was the ideal friend for Cath. She's rebellious and spunky -- just what Cath needs. Reagan's the kind of girl you'd secretly want to be best friends with. I loved every part of her (even when I thought she was just some brooding roommate) and I think she played a greater role than Wren in Cath's development.

The deeper essence of the novel was hidden underneath a light layer of love and adolescent problems. That, to me, was brilliant. It was simple but complex at the same time. Some stories have many simple subplots that build up into a complex plot; however, Fangirl is made of several complex subplots that merge into this ordinarily beautiful thing. The problems with her dad, her mom, her sister's drinking problem, her writing assignments -- they're all occupying her mind. But in the end, it all comes down to whether or not she's going to be okay with the change or not.

Fangirl is a beautifully written novel. It's exciting and touching. Readers of any age will love Cath, as well as the other great characters in Rainbow Rowell's story. They'll fall in love with Simon Snow and with the unexplainable joy of reading/writing fanfiction. It is a read that did not make me bored for even one second. Five stars for this because it is, without a doubt, a wonderful, simple book.


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