I didn’t like Eleanor & Park. I didn’t connect with the plot or the characters and I pretty much had to force myself to finish it. I was therefore understandably reluctant about reading Fangirl. Sure, everyone was raving about it, but most people rave about Eleanor & Park, too. In the end, I decided to read it, because the concept was interesting to me, and because someone in the library had to…
For those of you who don’t know, who haven’t guessed from the title, Fangirl is a about a young American girl just starting college who obsessed with the (doubly) fictional ‘Simon Snow’ fandom. With good reason too! Cath has been fully immersed in the fandom for years, and her current slash fanfiction ‘Carry On, Simon’ is a cult-hit with tens of thousands of fans eagerly waiting each new chapter. The novel centres on Cath’s struggle to mix her fandom life with her real life – a difficult mix at the best of times, made more so by a twin who is going off the rails, and the confusing attentions of real boys.
Despite my unwillingness to start this novel, I am really glad that I did. (Evidenced by the fact that I finished in a day!) Maybe it’s because I myself have been a fangirl, maybe Rowell’s writing has improved, or maybe I should give Eleanor & Park another chance, but I really enjoyed Fangirl from the moment I picked it up.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Cath was a great character to follow around – she was funny and awkward without it seeming pretentious, and the characters around were equally entertaining. Reagan (Cath’s roommate) was probably my favourite side-character, what with her reluctance to like Cath – but Wren, Levi, Nick, and even Professor Piper and Cath’s dad, all added something different and interesting to Cath’s story.
There was only one part of this novel that I found jarring, and that were the actual romantic lovey-dovey scenes – which I something I’d actually found with Eleanor & Park. There is something about the way that Rowell’s characters behave in these scenes that I just find a little bit out of ordinary… Aside from that though (and perhaps I’m just being picky!), I really enjoyed this novel, and I might even decide to give Eleanor & Park another go. Maybe. Perhaps later.
This is the kind of novel that feels like it has genuinely been written for this fandom-driven generation. I can imagine readers around the world being able to easily fit themselves into Cath’s shoes – with her awkwardness, her utter devotion to fictional characters, her tendency to worry, and her general experiences with being eighteen in a 21st century world. At the beginning of the novel, Cath is far more comfortable in the online world than she is IRL (in real life). A lot of people will be able to emphasise with this, and that is great. It is particularly great when then reader slowly sees Cath be drawn into real life activities, often against her will.
Once again, I really enjoyed this novel. I didn’t love it, as so many people have, but I enjoyed it. It was funny, refreshing, romantic but not cloyingly so, and the concept of the novel just clicked with me. I often had to stop and read a passage aloud to my boyfriend, just to be able to share the humour or the feeling of it with someone. I will be recommending this book to students – but I’d love to know what others think. Give it a read! Let me know if it was worth it. 🙂