Thursday, September 5, 2013

ARC Review: Fangirl

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
5/5 stars
St. Martin's Press, 2013
433 pages
YA/NA Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

After adoring Rowell's Eleanor and Park and Attachments, I was both thrilled and nervous to hear about her third novel. Thrilled because of course I crave more of Rowell's writing; nervous because this is the last Rowell novel until she has another one published-how am I going to handle the wait???

I guess I could embark on some fanfiction as the protagonist of this book does. Cather is writing one of the most popular Simon Snow (kind of like HP) fanfics around and finds solace in this world even to the exclusion of our real world. Her first year at college challenges that safety, with her twin sister Wren deciding that they shouldn't be roommates, an intimidating upperclassman and her awfully friendly ever present guy friend, and a writing professor who encourages Cath to come up with her own characters, in addition to parental difficulties like their father's maniac episodes and their estranged mother's attempts to reenter their lives.

There is so much going on in this book and it would be impossible for me to cover everything so you should probably plan on reading this for yourself. What really stood out for me was the examination of fan culture particularly through fanfiction (I wrote a few chapters of Wicked fic years ago-never finished it and I read a lot of musical fanfiction around that time too) and the writing process. Cath is filled with words and has a distinct style with an especially keen eye for characterization. I wonder if authors would have a richer experience in this book. While I think of myself as a writer thanks to the writing I do for this blog, I don't aspire to write a novel nor do I write the way Cath is compelled.

But the element I loved most was the romance, which begins very slowly and progresses fitfully with each making their share of mistakes and Cath especially loath to reveal her vulnerabilities. I think Rowell writes amazing non-cliche love scenes and there are more great examples in this novel to prove my point :)

Also as a sister who totally wanted an identical twin as an adolescent, I was fascinated with the sister-sister relationship, which gets very splintered over their first semester as Wren parties with a vengeance and Cath withdraws within herself. Luckily the sisters move toward patching up their relationship and Cath's roommate Reagan is hilariously bold and blunt, being an excellent secondary character.

Saying that, this was my least favorite of Rowell's novels. I don't know if it was that my expectations were higher or if Cather was a bit more on the difficult side (I love her I do and I identified in a lot of ways with her personality quirks but I think some characters you can easily instantly fall in love with and Cather was not one of those for me.) I also thought the style was a bit clunky, possibly because of the integration of sections from the Simon Snow books and Cath's fanfiction.

Overall: Definitely a must-read, though I admitted it wasn't completely to my taste. I still devoured it in less than 24 hours, alternating it with the dark Rose Under Fire to help me keep my equilibrium.

Other Opinions:
Book Labyrinth 
Ladybug Storytime
Supernatural Snark
The Midnight Garden
Young Adult Book Haven

20 comments:

  1. I loved this book too though I think Eleanor & Park was better. I really liked Cather as a character. I liked the romance too but what I really appreciated was the character growth and the time spent on family relationships and relationships in general. The fanfic was entertaining though I did get frustrated with Cath for not trying harder with her writing class (though I was the same with my English classes).

    Great review! I can't wait to see what Rowell writes next either. If you are going to write fanfic, please write what happens with Eleanor and Park beyond the book :)

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    1. Yay-we agree about E&P! I was so disappointed in Cath for not trying harder with such a rare opportunity in the writing. I'm probably not going to try fanfiction but never say never.

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  2. Maybe we should start writing Rainbow Rowell fan fiction. It would definitely tide us over until the next RR fix!

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    1. It's going to be so long-that's why I was so scared to try this. But I doubt I could imitate her style at all; you should give it a try though!

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  3. I can't wait to read this one! (And I think I definitely wish I had it to help me through Rose Under Fire. Great book, but harrowing.)

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    1. I'd read a couple of chapters of each alternately, just trying to stay sane.

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  4. Thanks for your thoughts! I really want to read this one. I know what it's like to be a fan girl, so I think this will be fascinating for me. :)

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    1. I found the concept so easily relatable and I think it's really going to resonate with the blogosphere.

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  5. Replies
    1. But have you read E&P? You need to check it out if not!

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  6. Oh, I'm dying to read this. <3 Glad you loved though it wasn't your favorite Rainbow book. So happy you loved the romance, though :D So excited for it. <3 Thank you for sharing :)

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    1. The romance has some surprising turns-YA love stories don't usually play out that way.

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  7. Hey there review twin! Sorry it took me an extra day to get here:)

    Well, I haven't read Attachments--yet--and I loved E & P, but Fangirl is definitely my fave of the two. You're right, there is A LOT going on this book (writing my review and keeping it neat and tidy proved fruitless) but I think the writing themes and the romance were my favorite parts too:) I grow more and more impressed with Rainbow Rowell with every book I read :) Great review!

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    1. You should definitely read Attachments-I am going back and forth over whether that or E&P is my favorite. Too tough to choose. And I appreciate that there is so much in the books; I think they will definitely bear rereading.

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  8. I have seen this one around and it sounds fun :D

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    1. It's a great book-I think there are a ton of us who are Rainbow Rowell fangirls now!

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  9. hmm a great rating but not your favourite. I think I'll stick with reading Eleanor & Park first although if this one's still available on NetGalley I might be tempted. Off to have a look ...

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    1. Read all of them if you can! Seriously they're all really good.

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  10. Your least favorite...wow! This is the only Rowell book I've read, so if I can expect even better from Attachments and E&P, that makes me very happy!

    I completely agree with you about the love scenes, which were just the perfect combination of awkward and sweet, totally fitting for a first love.

    Stephanie @ Inspiring Insomnia

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    1. I think you can expect more from E&P but it also depends on what kinds of stories you like and what you connect with most. The fact that a love story was totally at the center of E&P with their alternating narrations is something I love so no surprise that it was a fave.

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