I don’t usually go in for the YA genre. I haven’t in a very long time, even when I probably was part of the supposed audience for YA. That isn’t to say I’m a snob or that I think the genre isn’t any good- I just feel they often deal with issues I’ve grown out of or I don’t find them complex enough. However, if I hear enough good things about a YA book or if I think the story sounds cool, I’ll read it.
Fangirl fits into both of these criteria. I’d heard amazing reviews, mainly from Booktube, but it was Novella Zoo‘s videos that really convinced me to pick this one up. I also thought that Cath sounded like someone I could relate to. It also has a really cute cover!
Though, I just noticed it has “A Novel” written on the laptop. This is one of my pet book hates! If it’s not a novel, what is it? A lizard?? This definitely isn’t as bad as other examples of this stupid publisher phenomenon, so I’ll forgive them for this.
Fangirl is about a set of twins, Cath and Wren, who are moving out to begin college in Nebraska. We follow Cath in particular, as she navigates college life, boys, roommates and family drama. Cath is also a fangirl of Simon Snow, a pretty blatant Harry Potter-esque book saga. She writes a really popular fanfic under the name Magicath and is pretty much the epitome of the socially awkward nerd girl. Her twin, however, drops her fangirl ways and begins partying nonstop, pushing Cath away from her.
I found the book to start off quite slowly. I was even at the point of giving up on it as a lost cause by around the 30% mark, but was told to stick with it by the lovely shop assistant at the Book Bazaar at Umina. Ultimately, I’m glad I listened to her, as I found it definitely picked up the pace and I raced through it after that.
I really didn’t feel that the characters underwent much growth, though they were well drawn. Cath was a pretty infuriating person to be stuck inside the head of… I don’t really believe an 18 year old could possibly be as naive and immature as she is. As if an 18 year old who writes gay fanfic would think kissing makes her a slut, or says “eeeeewwww…” when asked if she had had sex with her boyfriend. Maybe if she was 16, but not 18, however sheltered and socially hermitlike.
I say this, being a nerd myself and someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy the party life, preferring to stay home and read/go on the internet! I even know someone who could nearly be Cath. Though naive and inexperienced, she wouldn’t have been grossed out by the idea of kissing the boy she liked at the age of 18. I don’t think it’s actually possible to be as socially incompetent as Cath, without having some sort of condition. I think this really isolated me from Cath, as I just couldn’t relate to that degree of naivety. But I understood her nerdiness, lack of self confidence and her feelings of social isolation, which redeemed her in a big way for me. I could have forgiven Cath’s behaviour if it had been changed or really been explained, but I didn’t really feel that her attitude at the end was all that much different.
I also felt that Nick, one of the main antagonists and issues for Cath, could have been dealt with more harshly by Rowell. He needed more of a resolution in my mind. I also felt that the issue with the twins’ mother could have been dealt with more thoroughly.
The fanfic and Simon Snow sections of the book I could have gone without, but I read them all. I think the World of Mages sounds a bit lame, but that’s mostly because of the silly spells they use. I’m glad Harry Potter doesn’t run around chasing rabbits and saying “up, up and away!” instead of wingardium leviosa!
Some sections of writing were really, really good. Other parts honestly made me facepalm. Example, you say?
“Inside, her internal organs were grinding themselves into nervous pulp. Her intestines were gone. Her kidneys were disintegrating. Her stomach was wringing itself out, yanking on her trachea.”
Lady, you need to see a doctor, stat. This is a problem.
The relationships in this book were really nice. I absolutely loved Art, Cath and Wren’s dad. He just seemed so cute and lovely. Levi was also adorable, but maybe a little too perfect. Reagan also balanced out Cath’s attitude quite well. Even the antagonists, Nick, Courtney and Laura performed their roles well.
Overall, I’d say to give it a read. I didn’t hate Fangirl, but I didn’t love it. I’m glad I just read it on my Kindle instead of buying the physical copy, as it just wasn’t good enough to warrant taking up shelf space. It’s pretty quick to breeze through and the writing isn’t all bad. It’s an entertaining coming of age story with some great characters. I just feel that the little, niggling annoyances kind of snowballed and made parts of this book really unrelatable. I feel like the only one who didn’t think this was the greatest book ever, so maybe I’m totally wrong and just being nitpicky or old!
Ultimately, for me it just didn’t live up to the hype.
Did you like Fangirl? Are Rainbow Rowell’s other books better?