Book Reviews

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

The first book I chose for my books outside of my comfort zone is Fangirl.
Fun fact: I don’t understand fan fiction. I tried desperately to read Harry Potter fan fiction once upon a time but it just feels so weird to me. I can never seem to wrap my head around characters doing different things than I expect them to do. (Also why I hate certain book-to-screen adaptions.

So this book is my first challenge of the year. I do enjoy the occasional contemporary romance, but I’m rather picky when it comes to the types of characters I want to fall in love.

Quirky, insecure girls who write fanfic? Not my thing.
I also had kind of an icky taste in my mouth after reading Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. I’m not sure if the problematic sentences in that book were Rowell’s own beliefs or the characters, but there were some lines that just didn’t sit right.

So I dived into this book trying to put all my prejudices and judgments behind me. Heres my final thoughts!

Cath and Wren are identical twins and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university and Wren’s decided she doesn’t want to be one half of a pair any more – she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It’s not so easy for Cath. She would rather bury herself in the fanfiction she writes where there’s romance far more intense than anything she’s experienced in real life.
Now Cath has to decide whether she’s ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she’s realizing that there’s more to learn about love than she ever thought possible …
A tale of fanfiction, family and first love

Title: FanGirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Coming-of-Age/Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Date Published: September 10th 2013

Rating: 2//5 Owls

I’ve decided I’m not a fan of Rainbow Rowell.

There were just so many things wrong about this book. There are some moments that are just point-blank out there, like mentioning that the characters have something in common by being white, or when Cath made fun of the fact that Levi has a learning disability. But then there’s also small moments where its not obvious, but something just doesn’t sit right. It’s the sheer whiteness of the story, the complete glossing over of mental health, the fact that Wren was so typecast that instead of being an 18 year old enjoying freedom, partying, and drinking, she had to become a full blown alcoholic. There’s just so many small things that add up in a very big way.

Now the actual story:

This was marketed to me as a coming-of-age love story. And it fell….very flat.

The story centers around Cath trying to find her place in college. Her twin sister wants independence, and Cath just wants to sit in her bed writing fan-fiction. YET SOMEHOW, people seem to flock to Cath and want her in their life…which honestly is just super unrealistic.

The romance in this story bothered me, there was no real reason for Levi to like Cath. Even when Cath herself brought up the fact that they have NOTHING in common, Levi’s only reasoning was “I like you because I like you”.

Just no.

And then the other characters were so boring and had no personalty outside of what they meant to Cath. Reagan partied a lot and had a revolving door of boyfriends. Wren’s roommate liked to drink a lot. Nick didn’t like using computers. This is the most I know about ANY of these characters, but somehow I was supposed to care about them? They had no real personalities outside of what they did for Cath and I found them all so boring.

Finally we come to Wren. I ADORED Wren at the beginning and wanted Cath to realize that Wren was right and that she was wrong. Wren was out making friends, figuring out who she was without Cath, and just living LIFE. Yes, she had her struggles but overall she seemed a million times more real than Cath was, and a lot more relatable.
But instead of letting her be this thriving young girl, she became a stereotypical party girl turned alcoholic. I HATE that Wren ended up in the hospital, I hate that drinking alcohol and partying was taken to this extreme, and that Wren was forced to realize “oh hey maybe Cath had the right idea and I should go back to sitting around writing fan-fiction all day”. YAWNNN

All the characters ended up embracing Cath, but wasn’t the whole point of the story to evolve a little? Cath didn’t grow in any way during her freshman year of school. She was the same person, with the same obsessions, at the beginning and end of the story. Sure, a few relationships changed, and she learned to *actually give a shit* about school a little, but overall? Exact same person. I desperately wanted her to learn that there is more to living than obsessively writing fan fiction, but apparently there isn’t.

There was also the inclusion of the passages from the “real” Simon Snow books, and Cath’s fan fiction passages. Why? I don’t know the book, I have zero desire to read passages from it. They didn’t make sense and offered no real addition to the story other than upping the word count. It would have made some sense to just include Cath’s writing, but why add in passages from a fictional book series?

Finally, I have one very minor grievance. Harry Potter is briefly mentioned, and for some reason it really bothered me. You expect me to believe that TWO series about orphaned magicians whisked away to a magical school and discover they’re the “chosen one” just HAPPENED to come out around the same time? And somehow Simon Snow is the big cultural phenonmenon? Puh-lease.

Overall, I didn’t love this book. I don’t love Rainbow Rowell’s writing and there was just too many problems in it for me. I’ve had so many friends rave about this one, and I really wanted to love it, but it seems my initial hesitations won out this round.

Have you read Fangirl? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Meghan’s Out-Of-Comfort-Zone Challenge:
Success: 0
Met Expectations: 1
Books Read: 1/12

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell”

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