Publishing Info: September 10, 2013 by Macmillan, St. Martin's Press
Source: BEA 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary, New Adult, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: July 21, 2013
Related Posts: Eleanor & Park Playlist, Eleanor & Park, Landline, Attachments, Kindred Spirits
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 fan fiction, 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 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.
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?
FANGIRL was probably THE most anticipated read of 2013. I basically started it, got 25 pages in, and then went to Twitter about how scared I was to read it because I had such HIGH HOPES and EXPECTATIONS for it. It’s so hard when ELEANOR & PARK instantly became a favorite and then the fabulous Rainbow Rowell comes out with another book that sounds like I will simply adore it. I always felt like I loved E&P so much because I really didn’t know what to expect of it so I kind of went it to it with little to no expectations. Twitter reassured me that I had nothing to worry about, so back in I dove!
FANGIRL starts with Cath and her twin sister Wren starting college and moving into the dorms. It’s hard for shy, introverted Cath because Wren has decided that she doesn’t want to room with Cath and instead get the “college experience” that everyone else has and not just hang out with her sister 24/7 anymore. Cath’s struggles not only include that painful distance from her sister for the first time, but she’s also worrying about her dad who is home alone without his girls for the first time, her roommate is extremely blunt and kind of rude, and there’s this BOY who keeps hanging out in their room that she doesn’t know what to do with. Lucky for Cath, she still has her Simon Snow (like Harry Potter) fanfic to keep her mind grounded & occupied. Her fanfic is the one thing she feels truly confident in, having tons of fans and all, so Cath sticks to that as her one true comfort when every other one has been taken away at college.
Okay. So. My thoughts on FANGIRL. This is actually really, really hard for me to review because I think of how many months I obsessed over reading this and I NEED to review this with exactly how I felt about it and not just how I wanted to feel about it. FANGIRL was not a five-star read for me like I hoped. Don’t get me wrong — I still LOVED so many things about it and it’s still somewhere in the higher four-star range, but I had some trouble at times, specifically connecting with Cath.
Oh, Cath, I totally feel your pain starting college, not knowing anyone, and feeling totally vulnerable, but please please at least leave the room? Cath was so sweet and I felt for her in so many ways, but because she was so closed off to the world, I felt like she was closed off to me as the reader. I wanted to just revel in her sadness, her fears, her adorable awkwardness and I never really felt like I got to feel her FEELINGS. Rainbow has this great way of explaining feelings to the reader without having to say them outright and you just pick them up, but because Cath was so hard to read in the first place, I feel like that wonderful way of writing sort of made Cath more closed off to me instead of helping me get in her head more.
I was super unsure in college. I actually went to a community college for two years, then went to Illinois State University and straight to living in a four-person apartment with my friend from high school, her roommate from the previous two years (who I had only met once or twice) and another girl we had NEVER met before, so I get how Cath was nervous about new people, new places… But with Reagan being so bold and Cath thinking that she didn’t even like her, why didn’t she go hole up in the library or a coffeeshop or a bookstore? If I was uncomfortable with my roommate (which believe me — it happened), I would go out into the world and find a place where I could be alone (among strangers). It just bothered me that she felt so uncomfortable in her room at times and she just stayed there. I would have bolted! But I guess that’s the difference between me and Cath.
I guess it comes down to the fact that I know Cath had reasons why she was so nervous and protective of her feelings and herself and I can totally understand that, but it still didn’t help me connect to Cath like I wanted to!
I don’t know much about fanfic so that wasn’t really a big thing for me, but I really liked the whole concept of writing and how it tied into the book. Cath ends up taking an advanced writing class and really having a hard time coming up with her own stories because all she’s ever written is fanfic. I loved the dialogue back and forth between her and her teacher and how her professor tries to guide her in the right direction. It’s great writing advice (thanks, Rainbow!) and there’s some great guidance that was not only good for Cath, but can be helpful to tons of beginning writers anywhere.
The family issues went a lot deeper than I had originally expected, and not just between Cath and her separation from Wren, but also how Cath worries about leaving her dad alone and if he’s taking care of himself without the two of them there to sort of check up on him. I won’t go into detail, but there was a lot more there that first meets the eye so it really added a great layer to the story and made Cath’s story a bit more personal to read. It was also incredibly interesting to see how Cath’s relationship with Wren completely changes from what they once had at home and how the two of them handle each situation so differently.
Okay, NOW we get to Levi. *sigh* Oh, Levi. I loved him so much. He was sooo so adorable and I loved all of the detail that Rainbow Rowell put into his character — from the physical descriptions to the way he moved to the personality quirks and even down to his studying habits. She made him so unique and so loveable. I totally swooned for him oh so much. He actually reminded me of Shane a little bit here and there so of course that added to my level of swoon, but I just loved his character. He, of course, has his flaws — and when it comes to their relationship, Cath does too — and that’s something that he and Cath really had to work on and figure out. It kind of bothered me exactly how timid Cath was with their relationship… I mean, I get it, but I don’t. She was just SUPER timid about everything and I understand that to an extent but it actually became frustrating as a reader that it took her so long to break out of her shell for even the smallest things.
FANGIRL was a great read for me and I really, really enjoyed it, but just the timidity from Cath really prevented it from shooting to a straight five-star read for me. I really wanted to connect with her so much more. It wasn’t perfect, but of course I’ll still recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of Rainbow’s books and just contemporary fans in general. I LOVED that it took place in college instead of high school. I’m always looking for more books that take place during the college years so I really, truly loved the atmosphere!
Cather Avery // Character Obsessions: Simon Snow, writing, fan-fiction.
I really wanted to like Cath juuuust a bit more, but she was a fun character to follow throughout the story of FANGIRL. I honestly felt for her a lot with her struggles through freshman year — I’m sure anyone who’s gone away to college can relate in one way or another — but I felt like her growth was actually kind of minimal from beginning to end. I guess a character doesn’t have to grow leaps and bounds in one book, but I really felt like it took her a WHILE to make any small changes, really. I truly felt for her character but I wanted to really FEEL all of those emotions that I think she even closed herself off from. She was afraid of so many things, including her own feelings, I think. It just made it hard for me to be like, “Yeah! Go, Cath!” when I felt like she didn’t even want to change or succeed or try to do anything at all out of her small comfort zone without someone essentially forcing her to.
Levi // Character Obsessions: Agriculture, smiling, making people happy, Cath.
Levi is adorable. I loved everything about his character (well… minus his obvious flaws that you’ll figure out). I loved his little imperfections. I love the way he made people feel about themselves. I loved his zest for life and the fact that he appreciated Cath for who she was. I really swooned over him and I think lots of other people will to! Bravo, Rainbow.
Reagan // Character Obsessions: Telling it like it is, going out, working, Levi.
Reagan was one of my favorite characters. She was pretty much the total and complete opposite of Cath — Said whatever she was thinking, wasn’t afraid of telling it like it is, liked going out, worked all the time, was confident in who she was… She was the person who actually ended up helping Cath by forcing her out of the room and sort of guiding her through her freshman year of college. I loved her humor and that we got to see the opposite of Cath in the same room with her.
Kept Me Hooked On: Rainbow Rowell. I love her. Writing about the freshman year of college was perfection for me and I loved going through those experiences again (as awkward as some of them were). Rainbow has a unique way of writing certain things and bringing in such touching experiences to make a story so much more personal. FANGIRL kept me a Rainbow fan (of that I had no doubt) and I know I’ll be reading her books for years to come!
Left Me Wanting More: Boldness. Okay, so Cath didn’t have to go over the top in anyway, but I wanted a bit more initiative from her to.. ya know… leave the dorm room. Do anything! Go explore by herself. That’s what I did on my first day. I was afraid of not knowing where things were so I spent the day just walking around campus, finding my classrooms and making sure I knew where things were so I didn’t look like a goon aimlessly walking around. I get Cath being uncomfortable, but for Pete’s sake… Just go find the dining hall and make it look like you’re just casually walking around the dorm!
Yes, I did have a lot to say and a LOT of different feelings about this book, but ultimately, I still really enjoyed it and I’m glad I have two signed copies to keep on my shelf AND I’m buying the hardcover when it comes out (because that’s what I do). I’d still recommend to buy it but just know that Cath may be a tough one to crack!