Last week, we revived our Book Reports with Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller. We got some great feedback from you guys, and really, really enjoy diving into these discussions. Estelle was trying to decide what she should read next and we discussed how great it would be to do a Fangirl Book Report. Magan had already read it and despite doing a joint review recently, really wanted to discuss the details a little more with Estelle. So here you have it, friends! Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell…
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (website | twitter)
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: college, fanfiction, twin sisters, empty nesting, separation anxiety
Other Books Reviewed by This Author: Eleanor and Park
Format read: ARCs from the publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: Twin sisters Cath and Wren have moved away to college to begin their freshman years. While Wren is diving into the college life, Cath is despising the change and scared of moving forward. She clings onto her fanfiction writing and is begrudgingly taken under her roommate, Reagan’s, wing.
Just in case you need a reminder of who is who below, here ya go:
I don’t even know how to start! There were a bazillion and a half things I loved about Fangirl.
Clearly, we don’t have time to mention them all. How about top 3? (I’m hilarious.)
Hahahah — I loved the New Adult feel – the fear of experiencing college and moving forward because life as you know it is awesome. The relationship aspect – friendships and otherwise – were so well developed, and I think there was a lovely depiction of what it’s like to be in a relationship, but to be afraid of getting too attached to someone and all the physical pressure that comes along with relationships. What about you? What were standout aspects for you?
Great points! I totally agree with those, and have to add the escapism factor. I could totally relate to Cath and her affection for something people may not understand. (I guess when you have a Disney blog you understand these things on a “deeper” level.) But she was so consumed by the world she had created for her characters and for herself that she was forgetting there was a whole outside world to experience. Or maybe just didn’t know how to take that next step and let go of what anchored her. Oh and maybe also finding this balance between your passions and also LIVING. I know a lot of us have those moments where we are so into what’s happening on twitter or in the book world, or just in the world of books, and it can be very isolating.
You hit on two major, major points here. Cath, the main character, had so much going on in her life. Her dad seemed to be suffering from separation anxiety (and more) after Cath and Wren left for college. Wren was trying to create her own identity, separate of Cath, and that left Cath feeling very lost and confused. Her fantiction was the only stable element of her life. She was a brilliant writer, people depended on her, and it was a positive amongst a lot of heavier “real life” issues. I connected so much to the “fear to move on” side of Cath. Each time in my life I’ve had to make big decisions – going to college, moving, etc. – I have become so emotional and had trouble accepting the new.
Same here. I felt forced to relive some of the more difficult moments of my freshman year of college when I was reading Fangirl. I really wanted to transfer, feared I would never feel comfortable there, and definitely spent too much time wrapped up in other things than attempting to make a place for myself in this new life. I have to say this though. For all the heavy moments and the scary changes, there is so much humor in Fangirl. It takes a ton for me to LOL but I was definitely doing that on more than one occasion during my reading. It surprised me! I don’t remember having that kind of reaction in Attachments or Eleanor and Park. Cath’s thoughts are so amusing and so things that I would think.
I agree. And her interactions with her roommate Reagan? My gosh, I loved Reagan. She was so honest and authentic. There’s the scene where Reagan finally takes Cath under her wing and forces her to go to the cafeteria? I was dying.
Same here. I wish everyone had a Reagan!
Me too. And via Reagan, we meet Levi!
Oh Levi. What a great character. I could picture him SO well.
I think from what I’ve seen around the blogosphere and twitter, everyone is swooning pretty hardcore over Levi. You’ve now read all of Rainbow’s books. Would you say he’s your favorite of her male characters?
That’s so tough. I really really enjoyed Lincoln in Attachments. His plight was so unique to any fiction I’ve written (a sort of momma’s boy trying to move forward from a love he can’t forget) so I’d have to say it’s a very close tie when it comes to Lincoln and Levi. What about you? I know how much you loved Park.
I did really love Park. But I also loved Levi. Levi in many, many ways reminded me of my husband, Dustyn. The way he wouldn’t enter Cath and Reagan’s dorm room even though he had a key… or the way he would randomly bring a coffee by… how he smiled at everyone. He was kind and so thoughtful. Probably the most respectful male character I’ve read about in a long, long time. Needless to say, it’s a toss up. I think because I met Dustyn when he was about Levi’s age, something kind of pulled me to him.
I could see that. Honestly, Levi was probably a guy that I would not have liked in college because I didn’t really like NICE boys. (Bad Estelle!) And I don’t really think he is like James at all. (HA) But, I do think he is the kind of guy that girls tend to pass over because he is too nice. Like, he always ends up being the friend? So it was interesting to see how this played out. I also liked how the “romance” was never the main part of this book. Rainbow did a great job of juggling a lot of different story lines and making it feel like all the events were happening pretty organically.
It’s really true. There’s one aspect that pulled me out of the story a little bit though: the inclusion of Cath’s fanfiction and excerpts of the original story she was manipulating. How did you feel about this? (Can I just say it pains me to critique anything about Rainbow’s writing?)
It wasn’t too jarring to me but I felt myself really wondering how the fanfic situation was mirroring real life or if it was supposed to be? I also (I hate to say this) kept getting a little confused by the characters in the fanfic and almost wish there was more included if it was going to be there at all. So maybe it was more jarring than I thought but I think (and I know you agree) we are so invested in Cath and her life and just want to find out what happens. Oh, now that I’m thinking about this. Maybe it was purposeful. Cath is going through life and keeps interrupting her own growth with the fan fic? Or is that reaching?
I really think you could be right, but I think the confusion for me was that it took me a bit to catch on to who was writing which part. I also didn’t get a sense of the timeline the fanfic followed or if it was supposed to be eluding to what happened in Cath’s life as well. Essentially, I thought about it too much when all I really wanted to be thinking with was how Cath was dealing and what was going to happen next.
I understand. I felt the same way. I tried to savor it all though and trudge through the fan fic as best I could. (I stayed up until 2am reading this on Friday night. I did not want to take a break at all!)
Hahah – I’m sure James loved being ignored for Cath and Levi.
It’s okay. He had video games to keep him company 🙂 But let’s chat about Wren.
Oh, man. The twin sister.
I was so intrigued by their relationship, and I love a good sister story. I felt like I spent most of the book being really angry at Wren.
Oh, girl! ME TOO. She seemed so selfish and angsty. However, Wren’s storyline showed me a completely different side of Cath. I saw Cath as someone who wasn’t so skittish and scared. She became a stronger woman to me through all of these interactions with Wren and their father. I began to see a tender, compassionate, STRONG side of her.
It’s true. I understood that both girls really need to steer their own paths. That took a lot of courage when they were so used to being together and sharing each other’s lives. But it was almost too extreme and I wanted to shake Wren just to talk to her sister! How could she just… let her sit in her room. Even though Cath didn’t like to party it up, Wren could have been encouraging and available to her sister. It felt like they were strangers.
It really did. Wren’s actions almost made it unbelievable that at some point she was into the fanfiction too. She became such a different girl than who I think Cath grew up with.
Another totally realistic portrayal of the choices people can make when they go to college.
Gosh, yeah. College is like this huge opportunity to essentially reinvent yourself. Cath wasn’t sure she wanted to do that. She liked her life as it was. Meanwhile, Wren was fleeing. She wanted the exact opposite. I can’t pinpoint any specific examples of this happening to me in college, but I can imagine how difficult it would be to make it through that kind of behavioral change.
Especially when you are going to school with a built-in friend. Or so you think.
I know you and I have both had adult friendships go awry under circumstances we just didn’t understand. I think that was one of my favorite aspects of Fangirl. Even though they were still younger than we are, I really, really connected to their circumstances even more so than I normally do with Young Adult books. It felt so refreshing.
I totally agree with that. Even Cath’s investment in her dad’s health and how she was so dedicated to keeping up with him. Parents are usually the ones begging for their kids to call them, and here she was kind of taking on this burden to make sure he stays afloat.
I finished the book and texted you “This is what NA should feel like.” NA isn’t a specific category yet and I don’t know that Fangirl is being loosely classified as such, but it felt like this was such a gaping hole in what I’ve read after I finished it. I need more books to make me feel the way Fangirl did. I need more NA books to not focus so much on people with huge sexual agendas. I’ve mostly stayed away from books marketed as such because they’ve all felt the same.
That is an amazing point. I want to read a book that I relate to and characters with intense baggage and this insatiable sexual hunger and tension… that was just not my life and it’s not going to be my life. Cath and Wren had real problems, real joys, and real growth. Their story could easily be someone I knew in college, or a friend of a friend.
Rainbow does a phenomenal job of making her stories so believable by including family, background stories, friendships, relationships. Their dad’s story, as you mentioned, was such an interesting one to me. I don’t believe I’ve read about someone before who was quite like him. I was so intrigued by him, but also cautious. I never knew quite what to expect.
Same here. I could tell he really cared for them but something was off? It was a strong point of the story for me, and I almost missed him a bit at the end. Again, I think his absence was on purpose because of well… I’m not saying what… but he seemed like a great guy.
Is there something we haven’t touched on that you’d like to mention? I just read through all of my notes again and I just feel so happy re-living this story with you.
I think all I can say is: BUY THIS NOW. The re-readability level is so high… I am anxious to get this book on my shelf.
I couldn’t agree more. I have a really hard time with re-reading because I feel like there are so many new books to experience, but I just NEED to own this one. And honestly? How gorgeous are all of her covers?
The cover is wonderful and so creative. I feel like it fits the book perfectly.
It really does. I just looked at how Cath and Levi were positioned on the cover and it made me smile, thinking about them in her dorm room. It’s so accurate. Aside from BUY NOW, any final words about Fangirl?
Ah. You just made me think of something. My final words are going to be about how accurately Rainbow described the writing classes in this book. I was a writing major and these were some of my most challenging classes but also the most personal to me. I could relate to how hard Cath had to work, her attraction to other good writers/thinkers in her class, and I was so so so angry at a certain character in this book for certain actions that I may never be over it. (You will know what I’m talking about once you read it, everyone.) But Rainbow really inspired me to think about writing and why we do it and why it’s so important. So I just wanted to say thanks for that. I haven’t felt that way since The Princesses of Iowa. I felt really empowered by Cath’s passions, for sure, and hope this nudges me to move forward a little bit with my own.
I love that. I loved those writing classes in a completely different way. I kind of gave up on writing because I had a professor tell me that I didn’t need to major in it because “writing was something I could do via any profession” and “there were too many English majors out there looking for jobs.” I am happy I pushed myself to study something different, but I also felt a little bit sad. I felt like I wanted the professor Cath had who saw something in her and helped her fine-tune her talent and even pushed her to embrace it. I felt like that was a missed opportunity for me.
That teacher was amazing. I loved how she went to-bat for her. A teacher like that could make all the difference.
Me too. How absolutely everything there played out was so fantastic. And even in some of the most subtle ways. That wasn’t a huge, huge storyline, but I always kept wondering what Cath was up to and how she was handling her English class.
You somewhat mentioned this earlier, but I want to bring it back to focus again. So many times I thought about how Cath living in her fanfiction world was so understandable for me because I feel like being a blogger takes as much investment and effort as she was putting forth. Her fanfiction wasn’t something she could sell and this blog isn’t something we make money off of, but it’s something that defines a very large part of who you and I are. I just kept coming back, over and over, to the point that there needs to be a balance between living in the real world and not allowing this to take over our lives. I think it’s really easy to want huge blog hits, lots of twitter followers, etc., but ultimately, those are just things. My friendship with you is so much more than all of those things.
I totally agree with that. Ah the internet would can be so complicated and so wonderful but you do really have to learn your limits. Something I think Rainbow nailed is how everyone on the internet has this other part of them we just don’t know about. No one knew why Cath was busy and not writing, and no one know what was going on when she was going on writing benders either. This is also a theme (sort of) in This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales too — another fantastic contemporary. Sort of these secret worlds our characters go to, where they feel so powerful. Even when in their real lives they are bumbling.
I would say that’s true for me too, even though I wish I could say it’s not. I think there are certain areas of our lives we protect and keep hidden because we’re just not sure how to share them. Or we assume people won’t understand. Cath expected to be ridiculed for her fanfiction by the people she told. (Sometimes I was a little amazed by her forthrightness at sharing considering the reaction she anticipated.) I think it almost goes beyond developing a persona and becomes more about becoming wholeheartedly comfortable with who we are and not caring how people will react in return.
Exactly. I think that is the perfect note to end on tonight.
Well, there you have it, folks. We broke down just about every aspect we could think of for Fangirl (in the least spoilery ways possible). Our sincere hope is that you’ll take a chance on Cath and let us know what takeaways you experience.