Sunday, January 25, 2015

Triple Review: Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell 
Series: N/A
Genre: Romance, New Adult
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Wow. I am so so upset with myself that I have never read a Rainbow Rowell book before, and now I'm actually ashamed to admit it. I read Fangirl in just a few hours, because I was actually so into the story that I kind of ahem fangirled over it (sorry that was bad but I've been meaning to make that joke for a while now). Anyway, I'll cut to the chase. This book, with all of its quirk and charm and great writing and incredibly constructed characters, is fantastic in every way.

The book centers around a girl named Cath, or Cather (kinda reminded me of catheter at first but it went away as the book went on). Cath is a brilliantly composed character, and she stays true to herself while still accepting change (albeit, unwillingly) and she is super rad. She writes a fanfiction which is followed by thousands (which is also referenced in the piece a lot, get ready). She is the kind of fanfiction writer that gets people excited enough to design etsy tees inspired by her writing.

I should mention, this girl is a freshman at college, which makes you think that this book would be all about a girl trying to find her place in the social scene or a try hard attempt at a long term college romance. Let me just tell you -- this book is filled with college romance and finding identities and preserving them, but none of it was cliched at all. Cath is just incredibly realistic, which honestly surprised me. It is so hard to find a character that strikes so many nerves (especially a narrating character (especially in a YA teen romance)).

Cath has a twin sister, Wren, and a workaholic dad who lives in Omaha (they go to school in Lincoln). Cath starts out school with a roommate who doesn't want to talk to her, a sister who just wants to party, a semi-sorta-roommate-boyfriend-best-friend hanging out around her dorm all the time, a fiction writing course that only juniors can take with a certain "study buddy," a lot of protein bars, not a lot of willingness to interact socially, and an incredible talent for writing fanfiction. It just so happens that every character I have mentioned is written to have worries and issues but displays personal growth and has interesting quirks. I cannot remember the last time I have read a YA book with such well written characters. I feel as though characters are my favorite part of every book, and I am so impressed when even one character is written perfectly. This book brought the freshman year college life alive for so many students who cannot be pigeonholed into one specific category. Sometimes, people want to write fanfiction and also gossip over a dinner table: the two are not mutually exclusive, which is how I feel it goes most of the time.

Lets talk about the love interest: I won't tell you who he is, but I will tell you that he is such a well done character (geez, I want to stop rambling about how great the characters are but its so hard, you'll understand once you read the book). Our love interest is not our stereotypical washboard-abs kind of guy, nor the straight-As guy, or the bad boy, The love interest is so appealing because he is none of those things: he is just a regular guy, the kind of guy that people know in real life and the kind that has great relationships (great enough to be written about even), despite his surprising lack of stereotype or ability to just get stuck in one certain category.

I don't want to talk much more about the book or how Cath progresses because this isn't a book anyone should have spoiled for them. Fangirl was a 10/10 would recommend & read again. If you're looking to have an awesome time with LITERALLY AMAZING CHARACTERS (CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH) you want to read this book. Get on it asap, don't wait to jump on the Rainbow Rowell train like I did.
- Amrutha

Kiersten's Review of Fangirl
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

If you read my review of Landline a while back (here), then you'll know that Landline was my first Rainbow Rowell book (gasp). After reading Landline, I knew that Rainbow Rowell was an author who I'd probably enjoy no matter what she wrote, and Fangirl did not disappoint. At all. For real. It might have even exceeded the already high expectations I had for it.

Cath is a girl who doesn't like change. Being forced into this new place with new people and without the comfort of her twin sister, Wren, Cath is a bit lost. She's more than timid to start - she eats protein bars instead of real food because she's afraid to go to the dining hall - but throughout the book, we get to see her facing her fears and becoming even more enjoyable than she already was.

Obviously the title gives a bit of insight into who Cath is - she's a fangirl who writes fan fiction about a young wizard named Simon Snow - but, while this is an important characteristic, there's so much more to this story besides Cath's attachment to the fandom. As the book goes on, there's more insight into why exactly Cath is such a fangirl and what it means in her life. Rainbow Rowell did a remarkable job creating this character who exudes normalcy while reading as extremely exceptional.

Along with Cath, there are great supporting characters. Reagan, Levi, and Wren are all so normal. My freshman year in college, I swear I met these people. In fact, the description of Reagan and Cath's relationship in the very beginning of the year (their only interaction being an occasional "Hey, how are you?" or "Can you close the window?") is actually my relationship with my roommate the entirety of last year (we can't all become best friends with our roommates). I think part of the magic of these characters is just how real they are - how normal.

Going back to the whole fangirl thing, there are a bunch of excerpts from the books Cath loves as well as parts of her fan fictions. While these pieces were interesting, I have to say that they were probably my least favorite part. It's not that they took away from the book, but I just loved Cath's story so much that I couldn't wait to get back to her after these parts. (Side note: I am still pretty excited about the whole Simon/Baz spin-off, Carry On, though).

Ok, so I realize that this review is getting rather long and all I have are good things to say about Fangirl, so I think you get the gist. I could not get enough of this book! Rainbow Rowell made me fall in love with these characters and had me hooked all the way through the end. In fact, I was laying in bed reading this book and at 2:30 am, I fell asleep. When I woke up a short 30 minutes later, I continued reading. That's how good this book is. Sleep would not get in my way of reading this book. Furthermore, I highly recommend Fangirl for everyone, especially if you like sweet romances, coming of age stories, and fangirling.

- Kiersten

Noor's Review of Fangirl
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

My journey involving finally reading this book was a long one. I was in a bookstore in Houston earlier this winter break and they didn't have it, and then I figured I'd pick it up when I went to the event for The Darkest Part of the Forest but they didn't have it there either, and then I wound up in Barnes and Noble later that same day and they did have it, but I left it in my friend's car and couldn't get it until we got back to school and I honestly have so many books that I figured I would just read it later but then I kept thinking about how much I wanted to read it and how great Rainbow Rowell is and how much I loved Eleanor and Park (review here) so I just bought the ebook and ended up reading the whole thing within a few hours, like Amrutha. I didn't even realize I was going through the book so quickly, because I couldn't physically see it diminishing and I wasn't particularly paying attention to the percentage in the corner of my screen. I remember looking and seeing, at one point "68% complete" and not registering that in my head and then all of a sudden it was over????? I was a little sad I didn't keep tabs because I like to savor the last page and I didn't know the last page was the last page but it's okay.

Anyway, this book was totally phenomenal. I know I had to stop reading every so often and just collect myself and breathe because of how great it was. It centered on Cath, college freshman and fanfiction writer, trying to juggle all these new life adjustments, and it was just so well done, I don't even know where to start.

All the characters were so well-written, you could feel them coming off the page and I actually ached to want them in my life not because they were these "perfect" fictional characters but because they were so flawed and human and likable that I just wanted to befriend them myself. I really loved Reagan, who is Cath's roommate and for a good few months doesn't communicate with her other than simple questions about the room. Like Kiersten, this was also my relationship with my roommate freshman year (although we had a few other conversations and things, we just never got that close). However, eventually their dynamic changes and we see more of Reagan's personality than what her side of the room looks like and I absolutely love her. From her sarcastic comments to how mean she is to everyone, and the way she just exudes dominance, Reagan was such a great character in my opinion.

And then there's Levi, who's known Reagan since forever and hangs out in their room 24/7. I love him, too. I love that he's always smiling and that he lives on a ranch and genuinely cares about other people. And fiction-writing Nick was an interesting one too. Reading about their notebook-writing dynamic was very interesting and I liked seeing how everything played out, especially with the class and Professor Piper (another great character). I could go on and on about every character mentioned in the book because each one was fleshed out so well. From the twin sister (Wren) who wants to be a totally different person in college to the mom who's been out of the picture since third grade and the dad who struggles with his mental health, the book is full of people who are so real in so many ways.

Cath herself is very realistic because instead of a typical "changing as she goes" plot or mentality, she stays stubborn and unrelenting throughout, and the changes you see are subtle and reasonable. Things that could happen. I also really liked that she didn't just write fanfiction, but she was well-known on the internet for writing fanfiction. It was a nice touch and it added to the plot and her character. I wasn't so sure I loved the insertion of the fanfiction itself into the book (or even the fiction it was derived from). While the Simon Snow or the fanfiction excerpt didn't detract from the story, I just liked the Cath story better. However, it was nice to see glimpses into the world and see the ways she manipulated the original story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I think everyone should read it. It wasn't a typical story in the slightest. From shying away from the usual love triangle approach to incorporating fanfiction and fandom culture into a novel, it was such a great book and I'm probably going to reread it again when I'm in the mood for something to lift my spirits.

- Noor

Do you read fan fiction? If so, which are your favorites?
Let us know in the comments!

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