Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Synopsis: 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 . . .

Pages: 445

Rating: 9/10

Overall: If you're a fangirl like me, it is hugely relatable. It made me nostalgic for the days when we were desperately waiting for the next Harry Potter book. A very relevant book right now.

What can I say about this book? Well, I loved it. I can relate to Cath on a cellular level. Apart from a few things I'll talk about later, I am Cath, and Cath is me when it comes to being a fan of something.

Fangirl is Rainbow Rowell's third novel and, according to the oracle that is Wikipedia, came out of NaNoWriMo. It is about a girl, Cather, who is a huge fan of a series of books about Simon Snow. Oh yeah, and she's starting college. Fangirl charts Cath's first year of college where she has to overcome her anxiety to make it through, and realise that she needs to stand on her own two feet rather than rely on her twin, Wren, all the time.
In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can't Google.)
First and foremost, let's talk about Simon Snow. Obviously it's Harry Potter. Like, screamingly obvious. A wizard orphan finds out he's a wizard and goes to wizard school. Though I think it's set in America. I loved this whole set up of the fandom, where Cath spends large amounts of her time, writing, reading forums, commenting etc. For Cath, the big draw is the blatant sexual chemistry between Simon and Baz, the school's douche-in-residence gone good (I think?). Cath eats, sleeps and breathes Simon and Baz! She has even become fandom-famous by writing a hugely popular fic. She spends most of the book writing the fic as she wants to have it finished by the time the next and final installment of Simon Snow is published. This side of Cath, I could 100% relate to. Fandom life trumps real life nines times out of ten. Reading about Cath's relationship with fandom and the books was just like reading about myself really. And nothing beats the excitement and anticipation of a new book. It made me kind of jealous that she had that still, and we won't really experience that again...
“You’ve read the books?”
“I’ve seen the movies.”
Cath rolled her eyes so hard, it hurt. (Actually.) (Maybe because she was still on the edge of tears. On the edge, period.) “So you haven’t read the books.”
“I’m not really a book person.”
“That might be the most idiotic thing you’ve ever said to me” 
My only real gripe with this was that Harry Potter is mentioned at one point. It completely threw me off that Simon Snow was not this universe's HP. Why? Why spoil the illusion?

Now we'll move on to Levi. From the first mention of Levi, I knew I was going to like him. He is definitely one of those guys that are so laid back that they spend most of their time horizontal. Though underneath this laissez-faire attitude is a guy who cares deeply for his friends, going above and beyond for them, any time, any day. Initially I found myself completely ok with the idea that Levi was just going to be a friend, and I think even now I would have been totally ok with it. It would have definitely been a refreshing change for a book like this. But in the end, of course, Levi and Cath become a thing, and they kind of fall into it. Cath reads him her fanfiction, and he is there for her each time she needs someone to be. Inevitable. And also inevitable that I fell in love with Levi.
Sometimes writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity.
Cath goes to college reluctantly. She seems to be there out of obligation, out of expectation that college is the next step. She goes because Wren goes. She goes because her dad insisted. But Cath finds it difficult, especially at the start, to fit in and feel comfortable in her own skin now that Wren is off doing her own thing. There is a slow reveal that Cath and Wren's dad is not necessarily stable, and that their mum just upped and left when they were small. Cath's anxiety over social situations almost seems crippling but as she finds her groove in college life, becomes unlikely friends with her roommate, she slowly works around the anxiety to start having fun, Cather-style.

I found this bit of Cath's story harder to relate to. I have never really suffered from anxiety, luckily. Certainly not anxiety that was borderline crippling. But I really liked the character development and (what felt like) realistic progression (please correct me if I'm wrong) of her learning to deal with and overcome it. It also didn't feel like Cath got 'better' the instant she met a boy. Sure, Levi had a hand in helping her overcome those anxieties but Cath was the one who did it and got through it.
“It's okay if you're crazy," he said softly.
"You don't even know-"
"I don't have to know," he said. "I'm rooting for you.” 
At the end of each chapter there is an excerpt from Simon Snow. Either from the 'real' books or some of Cath and Wren's fanfics. I really liked these little snapshots of this world Cath spends her time in. It made it easy to see why she did. By the end, I was disappointed that Simon Snow wasn't actually a real thing!

This is an entirely different book to the other Rainbow Rowell book I've read, Eleanor & Park. But it is just as good, probably better if you ask me. I think it shows Rowell's diversity as a writer, that you can't pin her to a genre. Attachments and her new book, Landlines, are definitely now on my to-read list!

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