This review is spoiler-free!
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 fanfiction, 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 fanfiction 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?
Nearly a year ago, I read the fabulous Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. The other day, I finally tried another of her books. Following are my thoughts on Fangirl.
Its subject matter is very unique.
If I’d been thinking more clearly, I would’ve included Fangirl in last week’s list of the top ten most unique books. Evidently I wasn’t, though. Oh, well.
Anyway. I’ve never read any other book about fanfiction. I know some books basically are fanfiction – Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series is apparently glorified Harry Potter fanfiction, and Fifty Shades of Grey is a Twilight rip-off. (This never ceases to amuse me, because why would anyone want to copy Twilight?)
But I’d never read a book about someone who wrote fanfiction.
I related to Cath. A lot.
First, let me explain how I feel about fanfiction – because Cath and I are both fans, but she’s a fanfiction-fan and I’m… I don’t know what.
I never got into fanfiction. I’ve tried it. Didn’t like it. Actually, it wasn’t so much that I didn’t like it as I just didn’t see the point – most of my fandoms have a ton of stories, canon stories, stories not written by fans. What’s the point in Tolkien fanfiction when the man wrote thousands of pages about Middle-earth, not just in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion but in The Children of Húrin and Unfinished Tales? Why would you read Doctor Who fanfiction, when there are seven series of New Who, twenty-six seasons of Classic Who, a movie, radio plays, and novels?
Of course, some people do like fanfiction. But I’d rather go through all of “the real thing” first.
Also, the only fanfiction I really want is Raven Cycle stuff, because I love that story and hate waiting a year for each new book. Alas, it is a tiny, neglected fandom, and I haven’t found much.
I’m more of a film score fan, really.
But broadly speaking, I am a fan. Just like Cath. And I understood her adoration of a series, her enthusiasm that usually led to people looking at her strangely. And I understood all the references.
I loved the Harry Potter references.
I’m pretty sure Simon and Baz were supposed to be Harry and Draco. Other things made me think of Dumbledore, the Marauders, et cetera.
The plot certainly took its own time in developing.
Fangirl was long – nearly four hundred and fifty pages – and the plot moved slowly. And yet, it wasn’t boring. Many chapters dealt with ordinary life: going out, attending class, blah blah blah. I liked that approach because it felt more realistic. Too many books hit all the extreme points (either highs or lows) in a character’s life, which makes for thrilling reading, but doesn’t tell me anything about an ordinary day in their life. And I want to know that. Well, Fangirl had sections where life just went on as quietly as it ever had, but there weren’t so many of those that I became bored.
I didn’t understand the resolution of Wren’s character arc.
Once in college, Cath copes by throwing herself into her writing, rarely leaving her room. Wren, on the other hand, copes by drinking. Eventually their dad finds out, tells her to stop, and – she does.
Other than that small issue, I loved Fangirl‘s ending. But the solution to Wren’s problem seemed unrealistic. OK, so most of what I know about alcoholics comes from the descriptions of Haymitch in The Hunger Games, but is it actually that easy to quit? I felt that Rowell was trying too hard for a happy ending, a perfect resolution for all her characters.
I’m pretty sure that Professor Piper was supposed to be Rainbow Rowell.
I mean, read the description of the character and then look at the author photo on the inside back cover. I’m fairly certain she wrote herself into the book, in looks at least.
Actually, I hope just in looks, because I found the professor rather unpleasant.
Levi. Levi Levi LEVI.
Levi! I adored Levi. He was kind and happy-go-lucky and I’m not doing a great job of endearing him to you, am I? That’s because
I am tired and do not feel like thinking of suitable adjectives you need to read the book and see for yourself how wonderful he is.
So, that’s what I thought about Fangirl. It’s an ode to geekery, and a wonderful one at that. Not as hipster-ish as Eleanor & Park, but I was more than OK with that. I’m glad I decided to read it.
What did you think of Fangirl? And do you write fanfiction?