Synopsis: In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, 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? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Exactly one star less worthy-of-fangirling than I remember it being. Still fun. Not life-changing. But we’ll get there. (I think that’s like, my new catchphrase. I’ve said that so many times in my recent reviews. I had always hoped when I got a catchphrase, it’d be something cooler. I don’t have an example of a cooler one – if I did, don’t you think I’d be using it?!)
Let’s talk about what’s changed since I first read this book. First off: *Lonely Island voice* I’M AN ADULT!!!!
(Technically speaking. I’m still incredibly youthful. And have very few responsibilities, or at least live my life as if I have none. But legally, I’m an adult.)
When I first read this, even though it was only a few years ago, I had No Semblance of maturity. I was very far from my freshman year of college (which is the surrounding storyline of this book), I was either into Justin Bieber or One Direction, probably, and I think I was into fanfiction.
Now, I am very not all of those things. I just finished out my freshman year, it’s been a long time since my male-teen-pop-sensation-fandom days, and fanfiction really, really makes me cringe. Also, I didn’t hate books all the time then.
A very different mindset, see?
Shall we start with the good stuff, though? I’m giving this four stars, guys. There was a lot of good stuff.
First off, I’m obsessed with Reagan. OB. SESSED.
Hang on, I’ll back up for the approximately 3 people who could possibly be on my blog who haven’t read this book. We follow Cath, a dweeby anxious fanfiction sensation entering her freshman year of college with her twin, Wren, who we are constantly told is the cooler/hotter/more confident sister. Anyway. Reagan is Cath’s roommate, who is super pissed at this living situation and has exactly none of Cath’s nonsense. She is so mean and badass and clearly could not give a sh*t about anything. While Cath is holing up in her room, she’s going out and having fun CONSTANTLY. Also she’s smart. She’s a less-creepy April Ludgate and I love her. I want to be her.
My favorite Reagan moment is when Cath keeps talking about how she’s not the ~type of girl~ who steals someone’s boyfriend and how Levi (we’ll get to him) would never date a ~girl like her~, Reagan just keeps saying, “The girl kind?” BECAUSE GIRLS DON’T COME IN TYPES, PEOPLE.
There’s more good stuff, too! I can hardly believe it. Okay, so yes, the good stuff is mainly Levi. But he’s really great.
Levi is the male love interest of this book. He is very fantastic. Just a total sweetheart and a charmer. Why aren’t there more adorable twenty-one-year-olds with receding hairlines in this world??? Anyway. If you pick up this book for one reason, let that reason be Leviiiiii.
More good things, more good things…I’m kinda blanking. There are a lot of descriptions of delicious-sounding Mexican food in this, which made me hungry and now I really want a burrito thanks.
I also pretty much flew through this book. Two sittings-ish, which isn’t bad for 400+ pages. (We’ll get to the length.) And it was fun, for the most part! So that’s a big positive.
Aw. (You can’t see me, but I’m frowning.) I think it’s time to get to the bad stuff now. Which makes me sad. Because I didn’t think there would be any bad stuff. (Don’t @ me about my unrealistic expectations; I’m still giving this FOUR STARS.)
First, I have to say: I almost reread this in August, during my freshman orientation, and I’m SO FREAKING GLAD I DIDN’T. Rowell does a brilliant job of capturing Cath’s anxiety (although it’s undiagnosed, which isn’t actually great mental illness rep). The downside is it made me, as a reader, also feel that anxiety, and if I had felt that way going into college you can BEST BELIEVE it would not have turned out well.
Also, there are just some things about this book that are mildly stupid. I unlocked this knowledge after actually, you know, attending a college. Like, for one, who lets a freshman into a junior-level English class just because she asked? A freshman who doesn’t even know the professors yet? Wild. I barely got bumped into a sophomore-level class even when I knew the instructor super well.
And now that I’m thinking of it, who offers intro to fiction writing at the junior level?! That SHOULD be a freshman class. There’s gotta be a better way to let the audience know that Cath is talented. Ugh, God, can you imagine being a junior who’s worked their ass off to get into that class and some nobody freshman shows up and submits fanfiction as an assignment? I’d DIE.
Which, like, speaking of…of freaking course you can’t submit fanfiction as an assignment. That is inSANE to me. Are there people who could think that is okay? The secondhand embarrassment I got when Cath submitted gay smut about two wizards in a book series for children to a respected novelist…my God.
And about those children’s-book-series-wizards. The fictional series within this book, Simon Snow, just IS Harry Potter. There’s a Harry equivalent, a Draco, a Hermione, a Dumbledore, a Cho, a Voldemort, even a flippin’ Viktor Krum, and it all happens in a knockoff Hogwarts. It didn’t bug me the first time I read this book, or when I read Carry On, but the fact that Harry Potter also exists in this universe doesn’t add up. Why wouldn’t it be mentioned more than once, anyway? At least with someone being like, hey, did anyone else notice that these books are the same? Bleh.
I got all that information from the fanfiction mentioned in the first quarter of this book. Because after that, I stopped reading it. I got bored. I don’t care about Simon Snow, or Cath’s fanfiction empire. (How did I make it through Carry On? That’s literally all that is.)
Other bad stuff…Oh, yeah. The first chunk of this book features a sh*t ton of rape jokes. Like, of the “Don’t get raped!” variety. Which is just in poor taste.
I also am suuuper not into either of the twins. Cath is a total wet blanket, and Wren is dumb. Cath never does anything, and when Wren gets alcohol poisoning, she’s all, “It’s fine!!!” They’re both way too extreme. Just let Wren party once in awhile, and let Cath make a friend or two. Jesus. Could be kind of exhausting. Some of this is solved through character development, and their exhaustinglyyyy extra relationship gets better, but it’s a bumpy ride.
I also didn’t really…feel the chemistry between Cath and Levi? At some points I felt the angst, but not the SPARK. Their relationship just seems really hard. Instead of the typical oh-my-god-did-you-cheat-on-me-do-you-like-someone-else-I-can’t-be-with-you will-they-won’t-they drama of most contemporaries, this book just spent a bunch of time on Cath and Levi slowlyyyy, painfullyyyyy settling into a relationship. Which, like, not interested. Boring at best and upsetting at worst. (Not often the latter; I didn’t care that much.)
The last thing: This book is very, very, VERY long. At its best, I wanted it to be 10,000 pages/live inside it/neverever finish, but when it was more boring and I reality checked myself
before I wrecked myself, I was all, “This could be 200 pages shorter.
Bottom line: I just complained SO MUCH (is anyone surprised?) but this was actually a really fun book. Reagan and Levi are great, even if Cath and Wren aren’t. It’s an example of contemporaries at their best. But God, fanfiction makes me CRINGE, man.