I actually remember when Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell) came out, although it didn’t really register on my radar at the time. I’ve never really been one for slice-of-life stories, nor am I all that fond of NA; but Noelle Stevenson had done the cover art, and you all know that I love Noelle Stevenson.
It wasn’t until I read Carry On last year, and loved it, that I decided to give Fangirl a try.
What Fangirl is about:
Cath is a shy, bookish fangirl who’s not at all ready to begin her first year of university. Her twin sister, Wren, wants to meet new people and really live it up. Cath just wants to stay in her room and work on her insanely popular Simon Snow fanfiction, Carry On, Simon. But is fanfiction enough? Or will Cath have to learn how to take a risk on the real world?
My thoughts on Fangirl:
One thing that a lot of people say about Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell) is that they identify with Cath a lot, and I was no exception. Cath really hit home for me.
And that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
My first year at university was an exercise in sheer misery. Cath’s miserable, self-depricating inner monologue was exactly what I was thinking when I was eighteen – all day, every day. Being reminded of what it was like to experience that level of depression, isolation, and anxiety made it really hard for me to enjoy this book.
I think the real reason that I kept on reading was because I was desperate to see Cath turn out okay in the end. I needed to be reminded of what it was like to see some dim but very real spark of hope in the distance. I needed to be sure that the first year of university ended.
When it did end, I was so relieved.
I thought this was also a really good look at the inner life of a fangirl. I don’t know if we’re all obsessed with cardigans and queer OTPs, but I think it’s safe to say that most of us are. Cath’s dynamic inner life, her comprehensive knowledge of the books, her thousands of little headcanons – that’s a big mood.
And, finally, I loved Reagan and Levi. They were the fresh air that Fangirl really needed. I loved how casual Reagan was about everything. She might not have understood Cath, but she wasn’t genuinely bothered by Cath’s Simon Snow addiction. When Cath and Levi got together, she didn’t waste time being jealous or surly or uncommunicative, nor did she get all weird and possessive over her ex. Reagan was just so chill. But like, in an aggressive way.
And Levi – Levi was wonderful. He was so sweet and thoughful, and really chill in a completely different way. He was a wonderful counterpoint to Reagan and a great love interest for Cath, even though he wasn’t always, um, the best communicator. My favourite thing about him was that he seemed real. A lot of times, male love interest in books are a little too zany or quirky in the name of being romantic, but Levi didn’t tip over the edge for me. I’ve met people like Levi. I know of half a dozen Levis. And I love that.
I don’t think that Fangirl is Rowell’s best work, but that’s probably because I read Carry On before I read Fangirl. You can see the cracks when you hold it up against her later works. But that’s just how it is, isn’t it? Writers grow. Of course her earlier book isn’t going to be as good as her later book.
I may not have enjoyed the experience, overall, but I’m still glad I read Fangirl – partly because it was well-written and cute, but mostly because it’s good to remind yourself of what you’ve survived.
Have you read Fangirl? Did you enjoy it? Have you ever not enjoyed relating to a fictional character? What drink would you most want Levi to make for you?