Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Borrowed from my local library.
This is my foray into the literature of Rainbow Rowell. I wasn’t disappointed. I was, however, conflicted.
Writing Style – was quirky, and I thought this worked really well for the most part. But sometimes it felt forced. Like being kooky for the sake of being kooky. The descriptions that sparked this reaction in me usually revolved around Levi’s mouth. Apples and fetal smiles.. Odd.
Age group – This is firmly a YA book, methinks. It’s got all the appropriate elements working for it. But it’s strange because there’s a lot of NA books based around characters of similar ages and situations. That first year at university. It reminded me how style and perspective can push the boundary one way or the other.
Fanfiction – *deep breath* Ok. I’m just going to come out and say it. I think this book would be better with less emphasis on the fanfiction aspect. In fact, I’d be totally cool with that aspect being removed. Completely. There are some contributing factors to my feelings. Firstly, I was narked that Simon Snow is obviously Harry Potter. I didn’t feel comfortable with that. It felt like it was a pastiche of the types of fanfiction you can find written about the Harry Potter books. And this leads me onto my second point; Cather has become some sort of icon for all whacked out fanfiction readers/writers. Neurotic, psychotic, socially awkward, hermetic, slash-obsessed (and maybe a little perverted).
Heck, I’ve written my fair share of lemons (see fanfic vocab), I’ve also taken my own fanfic stories far too seriously. Like, if I didn’t finish writing it, I might die! But I don’t have any social hang-ups (not the the same extent as Cather), I don’t hole myself up in my room (and I didn’t at university) and I spent a healthy amount of time drunk as much as sober (not promoting irresponsible drinking here). I had an experience very much like Catehr’s sister, Wren, at university.
But I still wrote, obsesses over, fanfiction. I had a Harry Potter poster on the wall. I wore my Harry Potter hoody and put Lord of the Rings badges on it. I loved Star Trek. I got excited about Star Wars. I had glasses, I was quiet, I didn’t like answering questions in class.
But I don’t have OCD. I function as close to ‘normal’ as anyone else.
Furthermore, and this is what really got my goat, why-oh-why did Cather drag her feet about that writing assignment? You can’t submit fanfiction and pass it off as your own. That IS plagiarism. End of. So do what I did.. put the Deatheaters down and write something else. It really is that simple. I just wanted Cather to show the integrity and intelligence I knew she had.
Finally, the fans. I sometimes felt like Cath’s ego was being stroked too much. So what if you have thousands of people reading your fanfic? If you stopped writing they’d be upset for a while, sure, but they’d find someone else. It’s a fickle place, the interwebs, and Cather says as much! But she puts so much stock in a fan base she has had no physical contact with (save one individual). And it’s not healthy.
Maturity – I respected that Rowell has Cather face some really awkward situations, those scary/exciting ‘firsts’, and I was relieved to see Cather develop and grow as a young adult. But I didn’t experience the level of maturity I wanted to. Rather than Levi accepting her for who she is, I felt like he was settling, like her was adapting and compromising. I wanted Cath to be more like Wren, and I was sad that Wren was put in a disagreeable light.
I enjoyed following Cath’s story, despite the few niggles. Levi was a fantastic character, and so was Reagan. Part of me wishes it were Reagan’s story instead! She was so sassy, and says it how it is. I like her a lot.
It was highly readable. It was easy to jump into the pages and keep going and going. Rowell has an engaging way with words, even if sometimes it drops a few clangers.
In the end, I had to give Fangirl 3 out of 5. I couldn’t ignore the things that made me grumble, but on the other hand, I can’t really say that there is much ‘wrong’ with this book. I can readily see why people might love it. But ultimately, it wasn’t really for me.