Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, or, Finally Someone Who Understands Me

Rainbow Rowell makes me feel understood. She understands what's important in a quality boyfriend. She understands how having a sick parent matures you beyond your years. She appreciates the stress an introvert experiences when forced to participate in an extroverted world. And she understands bookish people who love to read and reread and discuss and read the book some more and then bury themselves in fanficiton because they just can't bear for the experience to be over.

There is a lot going on in Fangirl (as there usually is in life) and no single issue that we can label as THE PROBLEM that this book is going to resolve, because that's not how things work in life (at least, not in my life!). There are a multitude of road blocks, flaws, and mistakes that all take turns being THE PROBLEM throughout the book. Sometimes all Cath can think about is whether or not her dad is on the brink of a mental collapse, panicking that her sister is talking to their absent mother, agonizing over the embarrassment of criticism from a professor or figuring out where you stand with the boy you like (but let's agree: THE PROBLEM is mostly what's going to happen to Simon and Baz next). Life is revolving set of problems and I appreciated Rowell's recognition of this, and that while change and improvement takes place gradually over the course of the book, pretty much nothing is fully RESOLVED. The characters felt realistic to me (they even take bathroom breaks!), so much that even though I went to school far far from Nebraska, I could picture them all on my Alma mater's campus.

Cath and I would definitely be friends (did all readers feel this way? Probably.). We'd be hanging out in our dorm room on Friday nights, having spontaneous emergency dance parties, and spending much too much time treating fictional characters as if they are real people (this sentence is itself an example of what I mean). Being a devoted member of a fandom is usually something I only share with my close friends (who already love and accept me). It's always a little bit of a thrill to find someone else who knows what fanfiction is (I've had to explain it so many times, and never as well as Cath does to Levi). AU, OTP, OOC, slash and shipping are foreign terms to most of my friends. I don't know why reading fanfiction is so embarrassing (okay, I do know why: it's because most of it is poorly written literary porn, but that only makes it more exciting to find a good author) but it makes perfect sense for anyone who has ever felt strongly about a book; why would I want to leave that world? And if the story didn't end the way I wanted it to, then here is the perfect way to explore and re-explore the way things might have been. Fanfiction readers unite!
From Simini Blocker's profile on
And if I was friends with Cath, she might be able to introduce me to one of Levi's friends... who could be exactly like Levi, please. Levi isn't perfect- he wouldn't turn heads on the street and he's got some boundary issues with those protein bars. He's human and believable and he panics and says stupid things after a kiss. And yet he's more than human, or at least, he's the best kind of human. I am so drawn to his endless generosity, his delight in being there for other people and making them happy. There are a lot of authors who think that physical attractiveness or eternal youth is enough to make someone a worthwhile life partner, or who think that kindness is more valuable when it's rare. And sure, we all like a bad boy who is only vulnerable for us, but as I was reading Levi's character, I felt there was something more beautiful and desirable in a man whose goodness is apparent and available to all, and that someone so universally good would choose me to be around.

General warm feelings, Rowell, that is what you have given me with Fangirl! And I'm not ashamed to say I've already scoped out what fanficiton is available for this book.

So what do you think? Are you fanfiction readers (if so- recommendations for good writers, please!)? Did you identify with Cath? What's on your emergency dance playlist? I hope to hear from you!



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  1. I had a very similar experience with this book - particularly about Levi (YES! All of those things! Particularly the being nice only valuable if it is done sparingly) and fanfiction. As my first Rainbow Rowell book my respect went up even more (which is sort of impossible since she set the bar pretty high simply with her writing) when I saw how she dealt with fanfic. An author who actually RESPECTS the fantastic fanfic authors out there?! Umm, YES. As someone who regularly reads fanfic, I loooooved this part of the book (I know a lot of other readers didn't really get it because they don't read fanfic....but this is why they should!) What fandoms do you read in? Send me a goodreads PM and we can totally chat about fanfic authors all day haha

  2. I think that Rowell did an amazing job of highlighting why so many fans, especially young women, turn to fandom and specifically fanfiction, as a way to escape and deal with the lives going on around them. The book showed that there can be a happy balance between the two, neither having to be sacrificed for the other.
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