Since I picked up Fangirl a few weeks ago I haven’t been able to avoid noticing how often it was being mentioned on Twitter and Tumblr. I knew of Rainbow Rowell and Eleanor & Park has been on my TBR for quite a while, but it was Fangirl that somehow made its way into my hand last time I popped into Waterstones, and so this is the first novel of hers that I have read.
I eventually made time in my reading schedule for this book, and I really don’t regret it. Don’t get me wrong, it is a bit too romantic and a bit too cheesy for my usual tastes, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
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 . . .
My first attempt at reading Fangirl ended with me putting it down after a couple of chapters. I can’t deny that it was a bit slow to start, but once I got into it, I honestly couldn’t read this novel fast enough.
As far as a sense of place and atmosphere is concerned, I can’t really say much for the accuracy of Rowell’s depiction of Nebraska, having never been myself. However, I can say that I felt completely transported to the other side of the world, to a setting that isn’t particularly typical for a narrative set at university, and I enjoyed it greatly.
The most interesting and compelling thing about Fangirl is the control of voice that Rainbow Rowell has. I think what appealed to me most was the fact that the characters were recognisable, and relatable. At least to me, that is. The main character, Cath, spoke to me quite a bit as someone with manageable social anxiety, but also as a fanfic writer. I can’t say that I’ve written or even read fanfiction for years now, but I completely understand the urge and the compulsion to do so, and the attachment to fandom. Fangirl attracts the kind of readers that Rowell is writing books about – fanfic writers, fandom diehards, the ones with Tumblr blogs dedicated to their favourite books, films, comics. And that’s why it has done so well, because no amount of publishing house publicity compares to word of mouth, or to the dedicated teenager with a blog and a bit of spare time. On top of this, as someone who considers herself a writer (an amateur, not getting ahead of myself here), it is quite soothing to read something so comprehensive that details the emotional processes of writing.
The most lasting impression I received from Fangirl was that it read like a rather long instalment of fanfiction itself, in a satisfying and indulgent way. Because it’s published, in a physical copy, and with a pretty cover, I wouldn’t feel too embarrassed to be openly reading it on public transport. Not that fanfiction is something to be ashamed of, but at twenty-two with a goal of getting into publishing I can’t really be shouting from the rooftops that I’m a massive fic reader. And that’s the thing, I’m not any more at all, but this novel made me remember why I was, and why it’s really not a bad thing.
My personal rating: 4/5. Amazon average: 4.5/5. Goodreads average: 4.22/5.
After this, I’ll definitely be seeking out Rowell’s other works: Attachments, Eleanor & Park, and Landline, which was published this July.
Buy from: Hive / Amazon / Your Local Indie Book Store ♥
Author on Twitter: @rainbowrowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press / Macmillan Children’s Books
Date of Publication: 10/09/2013