Thursday, September 5, 2013
ARC Review: Fangirl
St. Martin's Press, 2013
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.
The Midnight Garden
Young Adult Book Haven