Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher & Release Date: St. Martin’s Griffin, September 2013
The Hook: Everything Rainbow Rowell writes is gold. Seriously, her grocery lists are probably magical. She’s quickly becoming my favorite YA author; I’ve been calling her “the girl John Green” for awhile now. Strong words, I know, but she’s just that great.
The Lowdown (from jacket): “Cath doesn’t think she’s good at life – but she’s really good at being a fan. She’s been writing fanfiction since she was twelve, and she’s gotten kind of famous in that world. But college is another “story”. She’s got a mean roommate (with a too-friendly boyfriend), her twin sister’s ignoring her, her dad’s a mess, her writing professor is pushing her too hard… She keeps having to rise to the occasion, but all she really wants to do is stay in her room and write. Is Cath ready to live her own life, write her own stories, and open her heart to someone? Or will she just go on living insider her fictional world?”
Overall Impressions: Based on the description of this book, I went in with low expectations. Sure, “Eleanor & Park” was amazing, but I wasn’t sure that the “awkward girl who writes fanfiction” storyline was going to work for me. Silly me. I should have known that in Rainbow Rowell’s capable hands, even the most banal plot could become something poignant, raw, and funny. As with all of Rowell’s books, “Fangirl” is painful, exhilarating, and impossible to put down.
The Highs: I would say “everything”, but that would make this a short review, so I’ll elaborate:
I love Cath. I expected to find her irritating (she writes homoerotic fanfiction about a Harry Potter-esque character, for Pete’s sake), but she was written with such honesty and depth that I couldn’t help but feel for her. Her social anxiety and obsessive behaviors were incredibly realistic and heartbreakingly familiar.
Levi. Oh, Levi. He might just be my newest fictional boyfriend. Kind, genuine, enthusiastic, flawed in the most endearing ways… and the way he calls Cath “Cather”? I die. Every time.
Regan, Cath’s hard-as-nails-with-a-heart-of-gold roommate (and also Levi’s BFF) is probably my favorite character in the book. She’s the friend we should all have, the person who will give it to you straight in any situation and defend you to the death. I adore her.
I also loved Cath’s dad, and his own struggles with mental imbalances. Again, Rowell approaches mental illness with honesty and sensitivity, never caricaturing the behaviors but portraying characters holistically, with their mental quirks, however debilitating, being simply a part of the whole person.
Buzzkills: For me, there wasn’t a whole lot not to like here. The characters who were less than sympathetic (Cath’s twin Wren, a certain boy with whom Cath collaborates on a project) were believable and nuanced enough to make me forgive them their flaws (well, not the boy’s, but he doesn’t deserve my forgiveness, damn it). There was also a scene with one of Cath’s professors that was absolutely mortifying to read, but again, this is how Rowell writes. The agony is part of the ecstasy.
The Source: Advance Reading Copy from the publisher.
Disclaimer: Neither chocolate or invites to college parties were provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.