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A Reader of Fictions: Review + Giveaway: Fangirl

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review + Giveaway: Fangirl

Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell
Pages: 416
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Read: May 29-June 12, 2013
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Description from Goodreads:
In Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? Open her heart to someone? Or will she just go on living inside somebody else’s fiction?


First Sentence: "There was a boy in her room."

Review:
There are some authors who write in such a way that I'm mentally swept off my feet, in love from the first words. Rainbow Rowell officially joins this short list, now that I've loved both of her books that I've read. Her books speak to me in a way that very few do, to a degree it's a rare to find. Rowell's books make me feel a little bit less alone, a little bit more understand, and point out truths I've often thought or even discussed with friends but not seen in fiction. I can tell you right now that I will be sitting on Attachments (not literally) for as long as I can hold out, because then I know that there won't be ANY MORE Rowell for who knows how long. That's how much I love her writing.

Fangirl took me about half a month to read, which, if you know how much I read, is sort of insane, especially for a book I love so much. However, I was determined to read this sooner, but my review schedule is not forgiving of dalliances with books not on the schedule, so I read a chapter here and a chapter there as I was able. This can be a bit of an onus for a book to bear, though, because it gives me time to forget everything, and can make connection emotionally more difficult since you're not as thoroughly immersed. With Fangirl, though, the moment I started reading, even if it had been days since I got to read any, I was immediately back in Cath's world. Within a paragraph or two, the world around me dissipated and I was completely absorbed and dialed in.

Because this is such a highly anticipated title, a lot of bloggers have been getting early starts. Thus, though I avoid actual reviews until I've read the book, I've seen some tweets and statuses. Though Fangirl is nigh perfection for me, personally, I know other sorts of readers (as in those that do not have a brain that functions like mine) have had trouble relating to Cath. Certainly, Cath is a very different sort of heroine from the norm. She's introverted to the point of being almost a hermit, preferring to live her life almost entirely in a fictional world. Social anxiety plague her to the degree that she actively avoids making friends and refuses to go to the dining hall because she's afraid of embarrassing her self by doing something wrong. When things get heavy, Cath will just shut down and make really bad choices, like not turning in a final project because she couldn't figure out what to do. Cath is also angry, at her mom, at Wren, and at herself. I can definitely see where her decisions wouldn't register with more socially competent readers.

While I am not precisely like Cath, I'm close enough that I get her. I could have been very much like her, minus the fan fiction stardom. See, in some ways, Cath's downfall was her happy high school experience: built-in best friend in her twin sister Wren, popularity that comes with hanging out with Wren, and comfortable boyfriend Abel. On arriving at the University of Nebraska for her freshman year of college, Wren's safe, familiar little world falls apart. Wren, who refused to room with Cath, wants little to nothing to do with her twin sister, desperate to forge her own identity. Abel dumps her for a girl who a) actually likes him in a romantic way and b) got a higher score on the ACT. Her grumpy roommate Reagan, with omnipresent boyfriend Levi, stress her out further. Wren parties for all she's worth to make new friends; Cath avoids people more than ever. With Cath's personality, suddenly losing your safety net in a new experience like this would result in such a response in a lot of cases. For me, I was so unhappy and friendless for most of high school that I started college fired with determination to become an extrovert; it didn't work, but it did get me through the first weeks.

What Cath fears more than anything is being bad at something, and here is where I understand this girl so much it hurts. She resists new experiences because she doesn't want to make a fool out of herself. This is behind her trepidation to go eat in the dining hall, where she could go the wrong way in line or sit at the wrong table. This is also why she just doesn't do her final fiction writing project: she fears she doesn't have the talent to write her own world, and prefers the safety of her fan fiction. With romance, too, she goes very slow on the physical side of the relationship for fear of doing the wrong thing. With all of these, the more time that passes, the more difficult that goal becomes to accomplish.

The romance is important, and I'll talk about that later, but I love that falling in love isn't the only thing to help bring her out of her shell. Forging a relationship with her roommate, Reagan, is her first true step out of her comfort zone. Sick of watching Cath subsist on protein bars, Reagan forces her to go to the dining hall, and this becomes a routine. There, they bond by people-watching other students, making up ridiculous stories about them. Though Reagan and Cath have little in common, they're able to find ways to connect, and, if Cath can handle the intimidating Reagan, that's a big step. Plus, bonding through stories and jokes like this is exactly what Cath does with her family; the way to get through Cath's heart is through fiction of one kind or another.

Family issues are key here, too, though they are not tied up in a tidy little bow. Cath and Wren have a loving father, who's raised them as a single parent since their mom walked out when they were kids. Though their father, Art, takes good care of them, he has manic depression, and needs a lot of looking after himself, as he will not take his meds, since they interfere with his creativity, necessary to his job in advertising. Art always gave them pretty free rein, trusting them to be responsible and to keep him in check. The twins going to college changes the family dynamics, which is painful, but ultimately better for everyone. On top of that, their mother wants to talk to them, but Cath wants no part of the woman who abandoned her.

Then there's the romance, and, my goodness is it swoony. I won't tell you who the guy is, because it's better to let things evolve in front of your eyes. However, I will say that Rowell gets the speed of emotions just right in Fangirl, both friendship and relationships. Once something starts, it moves with the speed of a man-eating hare. Relationships of all sorts build so quickly in college. Since you're with everyone from morning until night, there's so much more time for feelings to build, because you're all crammed together in dorms. As a kid, you lack transportation or have a curfew in the summer, and other times half your day is school. As an adult, most of your time is spent at work, so there's less time for socialization. College is friendship in romance in hyperdrive.

The romance in Fangirl is a slow burn that comes almost out of nowhere oh so perfectly. Rowell hurt my heart a few times along the way, but she made it all work so well. In a lot of ways, this guy is not my ideal love interest, and I wouldn't want him for myself (several of his qualities are dealbreakers for me personally), but I love him SO HARD for Cath. Who knows if they'll last forever, but he's just what she needs right now.

Much as my heart wants to give Fangirl every single star in the heavens, there was one thing I didn't completely love. While I did love the fan fiction angle, I also found one element puzzling. Cath is writing an immensely popular slash fan fiction about Simon Snow, a wizard, and his nemesis, Baz. The Simon Snow series is an obvious stand-in for Harry Potter, which I'm totally cool with. What threw me for a real loop was a casual reference to HP within Fangirl. Why would both exist? This really does not make sense to me. If HP exists in this world, why draw up an imitation to reference? I suspect it has something to do with the amount of fan fiction included and copyright, but why not just leave HP out entirely? In this world, Simon Snow probably wouldn't be that popular if Harry already existed, because it had been done. If Simon came first, then what sort of commentary is that on Rowling? Logic fail aside, I also was not nearly engaged in Cath's fan fiction, so I was generally just waiting for those bits to be over. I do really like the role it played and her life, and the discussions of fan fiction versus original fiction, but the story itself was of somewhat limited interest.

I will read absolutely anything Rainbow Rowell writes. Though I've only read two of her books, she's near the top of my favorite authors list. Fangirl has realistic characters and is jam-packed with feels. Also, if you've been searching for books authentically about what it feels like to be in college, you want this book. I recommend Fangirl as highly as I possibly can.

Rating: 4.5/5

Favorite Quote: "Months are different in college, especially freshman year. Too much happens. Every freshman month equals six regular months—they're like dog months.'"

Giveaway:
Since I loved this book so much, I want to share it with you beautiful people. I'm offering up a copy internationally, either a preorder (which will come a long time from now) or, if you live in the US, you can choose to get a copy of the ARC. Sorry but I can't afford to ship books myself internationally, because all of the money for shipping comes out of my pocket. Just fill out the Rafflecopter to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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50 Comments:

Blogger Ashley said...

I love how much I can tell you love this book and that makes me excited to read it.

June 18, 2013 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED!

June 18, 2013 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Lynn K. said...

AHHHHH, you finished it. I've been stalking your Goodreads for an update/review. Fear of the unknown/getting out of the comfort zone is something I can also relate to..I may be a bit afraid to read this. >__>

I still haven't read E&P (but my book is finally in the same country as I am!!) and Attachments was a wonderful read. Fangirl is definitely high on my anticipated list!

June 18, 2013 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger meg said...

I am so excited to read this book! I loved Eleanor and Park to pieces. Rainbow Rowell's writing is beautiful, so poetic and...I don't know, I want to say simple but I feel like that's not right, minimalist maybe? Ugh, that doesn't do it justice but it's the best I've got.

June 18, 2013 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I DID. Oh my goodness, all the feels. I think I felt this book more than E&P even. Gah, it's just so much closer to my actual life. I hope you love itttttt!

June 18, 2013 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

IMO, you should be. Her writing's beautiful here too, but I know exactly what you mean about simple but not. It's not overblown or anything. She uses just the right amount of words to make it feel like real things people would say, but to say it so perfectly.

June 18, 2013 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Pabkins said...

haha I liked your tweet text! I love it when they are creative and don't just say "giveaway yadda yadda"

June 18, 2013 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I usually just do something basic and change the book title. Creativity is hard!

June 18, 2013 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Giselle said...

Ack I can't wait to read this one it will be my first by Rainbow Rowell but I've read SO much about it and I have a gut feeling I will feel the same as you (Plus are brains kind of work in similar ways :D). I have seen a lot of tweets about this one too but I'm not paying attention, DON'T SWAY ME, TWEETERS! >.< The romance sounds actually fantastic (which is SO rare now!!), which I guess goes hand to hand with being a good writer and not just following trends. I want to feel all the feels!

June 18, 2013 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh em gee! I hope you love it! Yeah, I try to ignore the buzz as much as I can when I see stuff like that on Twitter, plus you don't want spoilers, you know? The romance totally worked. It hurt my heart sometimes, but was mostly adorable and just so organic.

June 18, 2013 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Pabkins said...

I always find it entertaining when I see some people read titles extremely early - but hey that's why they are out there that early right?

June 18, 2013 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

EXACTLY! I don't do it too much, because I don't have any wiggle room in my schedule really, but, if I want to, why the hell not? If the publisher were completely opposed to early reviews, why give the ARC out?

June 18, 2013 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger fakesteph said...

I went to the panel at BEA where Rowell read from this and I want to read it SO BAD, but didn't get an ARC. I potentially regret that now. AHHHH! So glad you loved it. I can't wait to read it!

June 18, 2013 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

That sucks! Maybe you will win? *crosses fingers*

June 18, 2013 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Nikki R said...

Omg, I didn't think it was possible to be MORE excited for this book, but your review did it. Everything about it sounds like something I will love (and overly relate to). I seriously cannot wait to read it. *_*

June 18, 2013 at 2:32 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I hope so! I know everyone can't relate to Cath, but omg I loved reading about a heroine who overthinks everything the way I do. Just so nice to see.

June 18, 2013 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Mel@Thedailyprophecy said...

I've heard great things about her other books. They doesn't sound like my type of thing, but I might enjoy this one! I like the sound of Cathy, because it's so completely different from all other MC's.

Mel@thedailyprophecy.

June 18, 2013 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Cath actually isn't a typo. Her name isn't Cathy, though that would be more normal. Haha.

June 18, 2013 at 3:14 PM  
Blogger Ashton Kessler said...

I'm so glad you like this book. I can't wait to read it, and your stamp of approval makes it that much sweeter.

June 18, 2013 at 7:25 PM  
Blogger kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

Oh god, another book immediately added to my wishlist! I was a bit skeptical because reviews weren't very good, but you totally persuaded me, Christina :)

June 18, 2013 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I am so excited to read this book! I have also seen readers remark on their inability to like/understand Cath, but from the way you present her here, I'm pretty sure that I'll have no problem connecting with Cath. A lot of the issues she seems to have are ones I've experienced (albeit to a smaller degree), although I wonder if current college students or college grads will be able to get more out of it than those who haven't attended college yet.
I haven't read Rainbow Rowell's first two books for a few reasons, being that I'm not as interested in either of those stories, but also because Fangirl sounds like such a perfect, easily relatable story and that's the sort of story I want to read as an introduction to her works. Great review, Christina, and thanks so much for the giveaway!

June 18, 2013 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger Nori said...

You just made me even more excited to read this and I didn't think that was possible. I was going to hold off to closer to the pub date, but...this just seems so amazing! It was also the only book I kind of feel that the editors didn't ruin in the editor's buzz thing.

June 18, 2013 at 9:12 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

So I wasn't among those who loved Eleanor & Park. I was actually in the minority and had a few problems with it. But I can still appreciate her writing and appeal to the masses. I look forward to reading Fangirl and I hope that I will love this book and even out the score. I am happy to hear that you did. It is amazing feeling to have a book that really speaks to you. Great review and thanks for the giveaway!

Nicole @ The Quiet Concert

June 18, 2013 at 9:51 PM  
Blogger Christina (Christinareadsya) said...

RE: the Simon Snow series - It seemed to me like a weird Harry Potter/Twilight mix, with Baz as the vampire and Baz/Simon as Harry/Draco fanfiction... so it's possible that's why they co-exist? (Unless I read too much into the vampire part).

"Relationships of all sorts build so quickly in college. Since you're with everyone from morning until night, there's so much more time for feelings to build, because you're all crammed together in dorms."

So true. And the quote you chose. This book made me so nostalgic for the place I left a month ago. *sigh*

"I will read absolutely anything Rainbow Rowell writes."

Yes. I am seriously considering buying Attachments soon...
(Side note: did you like this better than Eleanor and Park or about equally? Or: irrelevant question on my part, because they have such different feels/topics?)

June 18, 2013 at 11:05 PM  
Blogger Christina (Christinareadsya) said...

Also: http://rainbowrowell.com/blog/2013/06/landline-ive-written-another-book/

Your dream has come true?

June 19, 2013 at 12:35 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

I can't wait to read this one after reading your review. It sounds like a book that I will be able to get lost in and connect to well. Awesome review!!

June 19, 2013 at 8:20 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

No idea if you'll love this one, since I've not seen enough of your contemporary reviews to know, but whatever others think I love this book with all my heart.

June 19, 2013 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I think it all depends what your experience in college was, and I think she might be really tough to understand for extroverts. Or, in Ashleigh's case, so similar that it's painful to read about and frustrating.

All of her books sound great to me, but I read really widely. Hope you love Fangirl!

June 19, 2013 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Eeeeeee! You must read it, Nori! Also, agreed. What the heck was with those editors? Did they secretly not want us to read the books?

June 19, 2013 at 9:19 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

You're certainly not alone. Her writing just really jives with me. Anyway, I hope you like this one better, though the reviews are really all over the place so there's no telling.

June 19, 2013 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Maybe. I didn't consider that, since otherwise I really didn't see any Twilight elements to it, and I wasn't aware that Twilight fan fiction was as big of a thing. Perhaps, though.

This book made me miss undergrad something fierce.

I've bought Attachments but not read it yet. I am saving it.

I would say about equally but differently. This one had more of my heart, but E&P may have been a slightly better book overall?

Saw the announcement yesterday and I am SUPER DUPER EXCITED.

June 19, 2013 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I hope so!

June 19, 2013 at 9:28 AM  
Blogger Kayla Beck said...

I think you described my life exactly, except for the whole fanfiction thing. I fear that I am almost exactly like Cath, from what the synopsis and your review says. I mean, seriously, eerily similar. *looks around* I almost want to read this, and the only hesitation that I have about it would be it causing flashbacks to my horrific college experience of being put out into the world ALONE. *shudders* Okay, now I have to wander off. Your review has given me some serious flashbacks about things that have become dusty in the corners of my mind.

June 19, 2013 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh wow. I feel sad for past Kayla, because going through that stuff is no good. My friendlessness and miserable high school experience was actually a boon, because I was desperate to make something else of myself. If I'd been happy and suddenly friendless, I'm sure that's how college would have been for me. Sorry for the flashbacks. :(

June 19, 2013 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Kayla Beck said...

They weren't necessarily bad flashbacks, just stuff I don't think about often. Because of my family and where I grew up, I had a built-in group of friends. I went through the friendless thing in high school, too. My friends were growing up into rebellious teenagers, and I was already a miniature adult (i.e. not cool). Throw in abysmal social skills, and the next thing you know, you're eating lunch with the librarians in the library. And I always had a teacher or professor chasing me down for a major paper or project because I NEVER felt it was good enough.

June 19, 2013 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Awwww, that's unfortunate. I did a lot of sitting at lunch tables with people who ignored me, but were nice enough to let me listen to them. We weren't allowed to eat in other places. They actually watched the exits to the cafeteria, so you had to find somewhere to sit in there.

June 19, 2013 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Kayla Beck said...

Ugh, sitting at the table ignored was the worst! I went to a rough high school, and many of the girls were capable of (and prone to) physical violence. It was a blessing that we were allowed to wander and separate, or there would have been even more fights. If nothing else, those librarians helped me beef up my resume to get my foot in the door at this library.

June 19, 2013 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, it's SUPER awkward. But better than being alone, I guess. I should have just brought a book. But I always thought one day everyone would recognize my awesomeness. FALSE. Ah, librarians are awesome. :)

June 19, 2013 at 11:15 AM  
OpenID tigerlilyrachel said...

I have no clue how I'm going to react to this book. On the one hand, I feel like I can't relate AT ALL because I was kind of a wild girl when I first started college, but at the same time, when I was in HS I totally had legit social anxiety and didn't talk to people and I still to this day struggle with not being good at anything. I can totally see why you liked it though, and why a lot of readers probably will. Oh and I'm not into fanfiction at all so there's that.

June 19, 2013 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I can't even begin to predict! This one is going to depend so much on what the reader's bringing to the table. Not being into fanfiction might be an issue, though. Haha. Can you handle slash? Lol.

June 19, 2013 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger Micheline D said...

Ok, so - I haven't been reading any contemporaries these past years....at all, so I was a bit skeptical as to if this was really a book for me when I landed it at BEA. But then my interest was peaked a bit at the YA Buzz Panel, considering the HP Fandom reference and an anti-social MC, it was hard for me not to become intrigued! I've never read any Rainbow Rowell so this will be my first but after reading your review, and praise for her as an author in general, I'm kinda freaking out about reading this now :D I'll be waiting closer to the release date (cause I'm already behind) but now I'm super pumped. I love how you described the slow-burn romance and honestly, I can see myself relating to Cath pretty easy! Thanks for the awesome insight Christina

June 19, 2013 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Hahaha, I'm behind too, but Rainbow Rowell! I could not wait! Anyway, I loved this so hard, and I hope you do too! Contemps so didn't used to be my thing, but I'm eating them up now. If you're into fandom stuff, I think you'll like it. Also, she's super antisocial and it's glorious!

June 19, 2013 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I kind of just skimmed your review because I get super paranoid about finding out too much about books that I really want to read, but from the portions I did read it sounds so good. I appreciate the fact that the MC is extremely introverted; it's different for fiction, but something I know I can relate to.

June 19, 2013 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh yeah, I totally understand that. I do the same with books I'm definitely planning to read. That's why I generally try to avoid talking about the plot too much.

June 20, 2013 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Bonnie R said...

Rainbow Rowell is getting so much love lately! I have yet to read anything of hers but I JUST downloaded Attachments on audio. Apparently that's an adult novel though?? This one sounds adorable, glad to see you liked it so much!

June 20, 2013 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

She is! Though she has her detractors too. I love her books so much though. Attachments is a adult, and her fourth novel, Landline, is too.

June 20, 2013 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger amairany ra said...

I just read Eleanor and park and found out I love rainbow´s writting stule

June 20, 2013 at 3:21 PM  
Blogger Alexia said...

Okay so I just read the synopsis of this book and now I really want it.

June 21, 2013 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Think said...

Thanks for the Giveaway!
Think @ Thinks Books

June 21, 2013 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger Judith said...

"I can definitely see where her decisions wouldn't register with more socially competent readers." Ha! I think I will be able to relate to her then. I am really, really looking forward to this one. I've only read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, but I do own Attachments and I can't wait to read more by her. I think her writing and characters are just wonderful!

July 3, 2013 at 12:58 PM  

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