"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This past week Goodreads announced its 2013 Best Books winners in a variety of categories. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was number two in the Young Adult Fiction category. It was second only to Eleanor and Park, also by Rainbow Rowell! Both books could be categorized as teen romances but they are so much more. Unlike most teen romances there are meaningful plot lines and the characters are fully developed.

In Fangirl twins Cather and Wren Avery leave for college together but will not be roommates, much to Cather's hurt dismay. Can she make it without her twin by her side? They reluctantly leave behind a father who has bipolar disorder. Their mother left them all when the girls were young.  Her roommate, Reagan, is older and always seems grumpy or gruff. Her boyfriend, Levi, is always around, too. This makes it very hard for Cath to feel settled in her room.

When Wren and Cath were younger they both wrote fan fiction for the Simon Snow series on fanfics.net. At some point Wren seemed to grow out of it but not Cather. Her fanfics page, Carry On, Simon has grown in popularity over the years and she attempts to write something on it every day. She also hopes to become a writer some day and is enrolled in a fiction writing class which usually is only open to upperclassmen. The final assignment for the class is to write an original short story. But all Cath wants to write, thinks she can write is Simon Snow stories. Can she break away from the fandom long enough to write something else?

As the story unfolds we are not only involved with Cath and her first year of college, we are introduced to Simon Snow through excerpts from the original books or portions of chapters written by Cath for Carry On, Simon. In a lot of ways the action in these stories correlates to action in Cath's life. As Simon Snow falls in love, so does Cath. As he fights demons (hum-drums) Cath is forced to face demons in her life, also.

In the Acknowledgements section of the book author Rainbow Rowell credits reading fanfiction for changing the way she thinks about writing:
I decided to write this book after reading a lot (I mean, a lot) of fanfiction. Reading fic was a transformative experience for me---it changed the way I think about writing and storytelling, and it helped me more deeply understand my own intense relationships with fictional worlds and characters. 
She even thanks fanfiction writers for their contributions. I didn't even know there were fanfiction worlds out there on the web until a few years ago, having grown up in the days before the Internet was invented, but I have students who tell me that they enjoy writing and reading fanfic. What a fun way to extend favorite stories and tell the stories beyond the end of books.

I read Eleanor and Park earlier this year and felt sure that it was and would be the finest book written in 2013 but it has serious competition with Fangirl. Rowell is a wordsmith for sure. She knows how to put sentences together in such a way to make me shiver with delight. Reading the book was sheer delight from beginning to end. When I closed the book on the last page I wanted to jump up and start a fanfiction page on Fangirl. I want the lives of Cath, Wren, Reagan, and Levi to extend beyond the end of the book. I want their stories to go on and I want to be a part of those lives.

Thank you, Rainbow Rowell, for your exquisite books and memorable characters. I think I will close this blog now and go back and reread a few of my favorite passages. I am a fangirl of your books.

If you have read Fangirl and/or Eleanor and Park, please leave a note of what you thought of them. If not, I encourage you to drop everything and pick one of them up today!

4 comments:

  1. I LOVED Fangirl and am reading Eleanor and Park right now. They are both SO GOOD!

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  2. I really liked this book. Maybe didn't love it like E & P but loved the characters, especially Cath. You should check out Attachments if you haven't read that one yet. Rowell is pretty amazing.

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  3. I am reading Eleanor & Park now. I have a feeling that Fangirl will be next on deck...

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  4. Thanks for the review. I'm planning on giving Fangirl as a Christmas gift to my college-age niece and hope she likes it. cheers. http://www.thecuecard.com/

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