Also, I'm only a few days away from seeing John Green! I still cannot believe I'm going. On Friday, I posted my two fold book/ movie review for The Fault In Our Stars in preparation for this week. It's linked below, and from that article, you can find all my other John Green reviews. The one for TATWD comes out Wednesday!
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (438 pages)
Overview: Cath is going into her freshman year as a ball of nerves and anxiety. Actually, that's kind of how Cath's gone into everything her entire life. But this time it's different because she won't have her twin sister, Wren, by her side. Even though she's only a dormitory away, Wren has drawn a clear line between them, finally stepping out on her own leaving Cath to navigate a seemingly hostile roommate and her cute best friend, a fellow student in fiction writing class who could be more than friends, and the classes themselves. She's also lost her favorite writing partner for her highly successful Fanfiction account Magicath where she twists the world of famous book characters from the Simon Snow series. And beyond dealing with her little world on the Lincoln, Nebraska, college campus, Cath also worries about her bipolar father who is alone for the first time in eighteen years and her mother who wants to walk back into her life after being absent for a decade. There's clearly a lot going on, and Rowell follows her through her entire freshman year of college creating a unique story that is unspeakably true to any real experience in life. Overall: 5+++++
General Thoughts: My list of all time favorite books just got a new edition, and Fangirl might just take the top spot. This book grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let me go. I ate up Cath's world, and, while I wanted it to last forever, I also never wanted to stop. The torrential downpours of Tropical Storm Harvey gave me an excuse to curl up and spend a full two days finishing this book. I honestly can't believe I didn't read this sooner because it really was everything I love and identify with. The romance is perfect, Cath's anxiety hit really close to my own experience with it, and Cath's a writer, and all the little bits about writing and word counts and deadlines really made my heart happy because I'd never met a character who was a writer that the audience ever really saw writing or accomplishing word counts. Maybe it was the idea that the book is billed as so fanfiction centric based on a series that doesn't exist, I'm not sure. But that fear was totally disproven. I'll talk more about that below.
Characters: 5 There are so many amazing characters in this book it's hard to make sure I say everything I want to about them. Since the world centers on Cath, I'll start with her. Cath struggles with anxiety, and Rowell illustrates the feelings perfectly as well as how it seeps into just about everything even when you want to just shut off that part of your brain. Cath is also very intelligent and self motivated, even if she can't recognize that strength in herself instead only believing that it comes in outwardly forms like that displayed by her sister or roommate, Regan. She's unsure of exactly what she wants even if she has a broad idea, and she really can't decide what to put first in her life now that she has a choice. Cath, who is now my favorite character of all time, only maybe in competition of Theodore Finch, is just so perfect for every way she is imperfect and relatable and human. You really just have to read this book.
The other characters are so realistic as well. Cath's twin sister, Wren, really wants to break out on her own and have a college "experience" which causes her to fall into some dangerous situations that both strain and repair her relationship with Cath. Her father's bipolar disorder is also a major concern for Cath as she feels very protective of both her other family members. He is presented very honestly, and Rowell shows all the sides to Cath's father and really makes the reader understand just how important family, or who Cath chooses to deem as family, is to her.
Then there is Regan, her roommate, who becomes a best friend for Cath and even a guide into this unknown world for Cath, having all the worldly knowledge Cath hasn't had the opportunity to acquire. I love how Regan's a bit hard around the edges, and they don't have a conventional friendship.
Finally, the two boys who really play a major role in Cath's life are Nick and Levi. Nick is a student in Cath's fiction writing class she starts working with on a project. He's a character that will keep you guessing and honestly surprised me. Then there's Levi, Regan's best friend who's constantly hanging around. The chemistry between Cath and Levi is so strong from the beginning, but Rowell keeps readers guessing if that relationship will ever grow to anything more.
Plot: 5 This plot is the story of Cath's life taking the reader through both fall and spring semester of her freshman year. And it does just that, letting us into every portion of her life showing some of the academic with the ever conflict bringing Fiction-Writing course with Professor Piper, her family situation, bringing in her inner conflict over her mother trying to come back into her life and Cath wanting to protect her family, and her social life including romance and new situations that push her past her comfort zones into a new world that offers Cath many more opportunities if she wants to take them. It also lets us into Cath's world on the internet with her giant fanfiction for her Simon Snow stories which she holds onto as kind of a last link to her childhood over which she is fiercely protective.
Writing: 5 I was impressed by Eleanor and Park, I am completely blown away by Fangirl. Even trying to dissect the writing and plot to judge this is impossible this book is such a modern masterpiece. Because it's life. Rainbow Rowell has taken someone's real life and put it into words on a page that's more of a looking glass into Cath's world than a reading experience. The pages ceased to exist. And while this is what books are supposed to do, few execute so well as Rowell has here.
To try to dig in a bit to the more technical aspects of this writing besides me rambling about picking up my jaw off the floor, Rowell has me in awe all over again because she wrote this book in third person. And I hardly noticed. I don't have an intentional bias against third person, I just often run into issues with the giant brick wall it usually puts up between the readers and the main character. She has overcome this completely, drawing me entirely into Cath's world and her brain. I feel like I know Cath better than most first person characters who's minds I've actually walked around in entirely.That's just how good this is.
Also, This book is 438 pages long. That was daunting, even for me, and I know I can finish books easily in two days. But you hardly even notice. You'll finally put your bookmark in to get a snack or something and realize the majority of the pages are now behind you. And that's because Fangirl is this long because it absolutely has to be. It's been edited incredibly and is paced to perfection unlike most books that top 320 pages where I comment they needed a better editor.
And, finally, don't let Simon Snow or fanfiction scare you away if you aren't super familiar or involved. Every chapter starts with a one page snippet of Simon, either from the technical "books" or from Cath's fanfiction which makes you "get" the world enough without really having to ever work at it. The fanfiction component too is something that all writers, of fanfiction or regular fiction, can identify with, and the idea and perception of this whole fanfiction universe is explored in a really interesting way throughout the narrative.
A Final Note: I had a friend who barely reads for anything outside of school tell me that Fangirl was the only book she'd ever liked. I think that might be the highest endorsement I can give for any work of literature. Any book that makes someone realize that books can be amazing and bring joy is a book worth an A+.
Links of Interest:
The Fault In Our Stars: http://www.readingwritingandme.com/2017/10/the-book-and-movie-fault-in-our-stars.html
Week 30: Our Chemical Hearts: http://www.readingwritingandme.com/2017/10/weekly-reviews-and-recommendations-week_11.html