Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Book Review: "Fangirl" by Rainbow Rowell

I really loved this book.

Cath (short for Cather) Avery and her twin sister, Wren, have always been inseparable. They've stood by each other through thick and thin, through their mother leaving just after 9/11, and their father's battles with depression and anxiety. They've shared the same friends, the same clothes, and the same obsession with the Simon Snow books (a series modeled after Harry Potter, but with teenage magicians and vampires). They've devoured the books, seen all of the movies, bought the merchandise, and both have spent hours writing fan fiction about the characters, although Cath started to do more of the writing and Wren became her beta reader. And Cath has built up quite a following in the Simon Snow forums, becoming the most popular fan fiction author.

But when the twins decide to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln together, Wren announces she thinks they should not be roommates, and should start making different friends. While this is easy for the more sociable and popular Wren, the idea throws Cath for a loop, as social situations without her sister tend to make her anxious. So she winds up living with the seemingly brusque Reagan, whose boyfriend, the cheerfully affable Levi, is always around. When Cath isn't worrying about having to talk to people, she spends her time worrying about her father, feeling the pressure of her classes, and wanting to finish her major piece of fan fiction before the last book in the Simon Snow series is released.

"In some cases, she was actively trying not to make friends, though she usually stopped short of being rude. (Uptight, tense, and mildly misanthropic? Yes. Rude? No.)

As Cath and Wren's relationship becomes more strained, she struggles with her fiction writing class, particularly one of her classmates who becomes her writing partner, and her professor, who believes that fan fiction is nothing short of plagiarism. And she starts thinking more and more about Levi, which causes her more anxiety.

This is such an enjoyable book. Cath is a tremendously quirky character with a huge heart and boundless creativity, and while I didn't always understand why she didn't just tell people how she felt at times (especially when they deserved to hear it), I found her really appealing. I love the way Rowell interspersed the book with snippets from the Simon Snow series and some of Cath's fan fiction, so you can see how she was inspired by what was happening around her. All of the characters were much more interesting and complex than they initially appeared; ironically, Wren was the one character who wasn't as interesting, at least initially. But I found myself utterly hooked from the first pages, and read this book very quickly as much as I didn't want it to end.

Fangirl is the second book of Rainbow Rowell's I've read this year, after the exceptional Eleanor & Park. She is a fantastic, empathetic, and talented writer, and I can't wait to see what's next for her. (I need to read Attachments as well.) Pick up any of her books and you'll find yourself a Rainbow Rowell fan, just like me.

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