Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Review also available on my blog!


Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university and Wren’s decided she doesn't want to be one half of a pair any more - she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It’s not so easy for Cath. She’s horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a romance far more intense than anything she’s experienced in real life. Without Wren Cath is completely on her own and totally outside her comfort zone. She’s got a surly room-mate 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. Now Cath has to decide whether she’s ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she’s realizing that there’s more to learn about love than she ever thought possible … - Goodreads

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young adult-romance-contemporary
Published: January 30th 2014
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Source: Received an ARC from My Kinda Book in exchange for an honest review. (late review!)
My rating3 of 5 stars 
The Book Depository

Hey guys!

I know I’m a bit late to jump on the Fangirl bandwagon. With everybody raving about it I went into this book with very high expectations. Even with the odds against it, in my view, I did enjoy Fangirl. However, although the book was good, I did find it lacking some things.

I’ll start with the negatives. At the end of each chapter there was an extract from either the Simon Snow books (the fictional books which the protagonist, Cath, fangirls over) or from Cath’s fanfiction of these books. When I first heard about extracts being used in a review I read before the book, I was really excited and interested in how Rowell would utilise them. The problem, for me, is that the extracts, particularly from the Simon Snow books, seemed completely irrelevant to the book. I mean, once you’ve grasped that Simon Snow is meant to be Harry Potter you don’t really care about tiny, irrelevant extracts from it. Cath’s fanfiction, although more relevant as it gives the reader an insight into how her mind works, does seem detached from the main story. It would have been better if, say, the Simon Snow extracts gave some message that reflected the previous chapter, or how Cath felt. Or if the extracts were from Cath’s updates of her main fic Carry On, Simon and we could see how her fic developed as she developed. Even the extracts from fics written years before this book is set could have been used to contrast how Cath writes alone and how she writes with Wren. But none of this happened in any of the extracts and I had to force myself to read them at the end of each chapter, hoping they became relevant. I asked my sister about it and she said that when she read Fangirl she just skipped over the extracts.

The ending was disappointing for me. There was a steady build up to the release of the eighth Simon Snow book and the anticipation to finishCarry On, Simon. But the ending kind of flopped for me. This could be because Rowell didn’t want to give the book a sense of finality so she could return to the world later, but I still would have liked more information on how the eight book affected Cath, how she finished Carry On, Simonand just generally a bit more of a closed ending considering this is a stand-alone.

But the thing that bugged me most about this book is how narrow its perspective is. When you tackle something like fandom (particularly if fandoms are close to your heart like mine) and name your book Fangirl, you’re taking on a massive thing. There are hundreds of fandoms and hundreds of fanpeople(?) and each person in that fandom has something they enjoy/contribute e.g making videos/graphics, writing fanfiction, writing songs, cosplay etc. Inevitably some people are going to be disappointed. When I heard that Fangirl was a YA book about fandom I was expecting all this to be incorporated. So when I discovered it was just about fanfiction I was kind of disappointed. I think the most important thing about fandoms and fangirls is the sense of community, support and understanding you get. The main downfall for me was that Fangirl had no real sense of fandom community and was focused on Cath individually. There was nothing about Cath talking to other fangirls, or interacting with anybody online. We all have a few people who we talk to regularly online and perhaps even consider friends. I would have expected somebody like Cath, like ME, would be talking lots to online friends about a big experience like university. I also wanted there to be a more universal view of the fandom, more fanart, more videos, graphics, cosplay, songs etc. Let me reiterate. I enjoyed Fangirl a lot. But I think when you sell a book as Fangirl and being about fandom you need to make it more elaborate. Fangirls don’t just write fanfiction. We communicate and socialise with other people online. Frequently. I felt like Fangirl stuck to the fanfiction but didn’t expand. Which isn’t bad, but if you sell a book as a book about a fangirl, I expected…more fangirling.

However, that being said, Fangirl was a lovely book. Everyone has different opinions about what is most important in a book: plot, setting, description, dialogue. For me, I think it’s the characters. Even if the plot is mindblowingly good, if the characters are rubbish then the plot doesn’t work and the book fails for me. I loved the characters in Fangirl. I have social anxiety and hearing about Cath’s nerves about university (e.g. going to the dining hall/finding a seat) is something I know I’ll get nervous about too. Reading this so close to uni with a protagonist so like me was almost reassuring me that uni will be okay. Cath’s only downside was the fact she handed in fanfiction as her own work and got upset when her teacher called it plagiarism. What else did she expect?? That aside Cath is a lovely and relatable character. I also loved Wren and the adorable (and refreshingly understanding) Levi. But my favourite has to be Reagan. I love her character as she is so real. She’s spiky but sweet and I think it’s great how she doesn’t try to understand Cath but accepts her.

Overall, Fangirl is a wonderful book about coming of age and facing scary but inevitable experiences like university. I was just disappointed by the fact it was sold as Fangirl but only incorporated one element of fandom and no real sense of the vital community that fandoms produce.

3 stars.

How did you find Fangirl? :)

-Molly

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