Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Format: Kindle e-book
Cath and Wren have done everything together their whole lives - it sort of comes with the twin territory. However, Wren dropped a bombshell and decided they should room separately at college, leaving Cath with an older roommate and said roommate's ever present supposed fancyman. Cath's only solace is her writing - most notably, her much loved Simon Snow fan fiction. Cath has to choose whether to step outside and embrace college life or stick to the comfort of her online world.
First of all, let's get this out the way [if you can't see the video click here]:
Ok, Rainbow Rowell is officially on my go to authors list now. Fangirl was seriously laugh out loud funny and when I wasn't laughing, I was smiling to myself - even though I was on a packed train every time I read it because it was my train read for the week. There were so many funny quotes and witty observations, oh and Kanye West! I won't spoil them for you though.
Cath was such a sweet character. She was the perfect vehicle for showing what the first year of college is like for mostly everyone. We all had that moment of wanting to quit, didn't we? Except mine came in the penultimate term of the final year - ha! Better late than never. It was such a joy to see Cath uncoil and - corny as it sounds - blossom. I felt like cheering out loud for her to believe in her writing Matilda to Bruce Bogtrotter style.
We all have a Wren type person in our lives (I love the name Wren by the way). Rainbow Rowell did a great of not turning her into a villain. Even though the story was from Cath's point of view, I still felt sympathetic towards Wren who was desperate to break away and have that full college experience - partly as escapism and partly because that's her personality. She's the fearless one.
Fangirl also dealt with the issue of mental illness without making it an 'issues' kind of book. No teaching or preaching, just poignantly handled. Art was a wonderful character and he had some great lines too.
Levi was a ray of sunshine! In the beginning, by the way he was described, I couldn't help but think of him like Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock. This changed a little as he became more involved in the story but still, it was nice to have such a positive character. He was like a mini Lincoln from Attachments! Reagan was also perfect as the worldly, older roommate (did anyone else picture Kat Dennings?) I really enjoyed the Cath-Reagan-Levi dynamic. Oh and I can completely relate to the door-kicking thing as I have been scolded more than once for flinging open a door. Apparently, despite being a wee thing, I have Incredible Hulk like strength.
As for Simon Snow - well that was just the icing on an already pretty delicious cake. I laughed every time I read that they were in Watford. Yes, Watford is the home to the Harry Potter Studio Tour but Watford is the gateway to the North and Londoners often joke that the furthest 'oop north' they've been is Watford Junction. I don't know what the US or Canadian equivalent would be so I can't really explain it... it just tickled me. Anyway, the Simon Snow madness made me nostalgic for Harry Potter mania. I love The Hunger Games but nothing has really come close to the HP hysteria. I started the series when I was about ten and was always smugly gleeful that Harry seemed to be growing up with me. I devoured the fan fiction - and beta'd too!- , went to the midnight launches (I'll never forget the final book release party I attended in Georgia and will always be grateful to my cousins and their friends for indulging my obsession), I queued in sweltering heat and got sunstroke at the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (we didn't even get in that day!)...and the list goes on! In that respect, Fangirl was a wonderful ode to all of us who are a bit - ok a lot - nerdy about something (and we've all got something).
I wish there were more books set in college like Fangirl. It seems as though most of the college stories these days fall into that now dreaded category 'New Adult' and seem to almost always consist of the protagonist 'losing it' or being violated in someway - which I'm glad Sarah at +Clear Eyes, Full Shelves pointed out the other day [here]. It is disturbing. Contemporary YA is all about coming of age. Well, college (or gap year, or anything post school) still counts as coming of age and it is here that the genre is severely lacking. Or perhaps I'm not looking in the right places. What do you think?
Anyway, for now, Fangirl was fantastic and I'm on the Rainbow Rowell train for life!