After absolutely adoring Eleanor & Park, I was dying to read Fangirl and see if it lived up to the hype. Honestly? The first half of the book bored me. Cath seemed to be the wrong twin to based a book on, her sister Wren, or even her housemate Reagan seemed like they’d make a much more interesting story. Cath spent the whole of the first half, moping around and not smiling at people. How can I enjoy romance in a book where the main character refuses to even half-heartedly flirt with the teenage boys around her?! However, the second half more than made up for it! I actually considered missing my bus stop on purpose so I could at least finish the chapter – now that’s the sign of a great story!
One thing I was unsure of in this book, was how the chapters were interspersed with extracts from stories about ‘Simon Snow’, or their fanfic counterparts written by the main character. Simon Snow seemed a little bit like a Harry Potter rip-off in style, (with a touch of Twilight…!) but there is a brief moment in the book where Harry Potter himself is mentioned, so I guess the fact isn’t really hidden. Often, the extracts seemed like interruptions to the story, however, I did enjoy the odd occasion where something happening with Simon & Baz, mirrored what was happening in real life. I also really appreciated Rowell’s understanding of fan fiction. There’s nothing worse than when an author shoe-horns in a popular culture reference that they clearly do not understand to be ‘down with the kids’, whereas everything about Cath’s fanfic writing seemed spot on.
An interesting thought struck me as I read this: How can our whole opinion of a character change in one paragraph. Without being too ‘spoilery’, how can we go from shipping Cath with one character, thinking they really like each other, he’s a total good guy, to suddenly disliking him, looking back on everything he’s done throughout the story with disgust and realising she never liked him either? In the same way, how can a character you think is completely dorky, become someone you have guilty dreams about?! (Seriously, I dreamt about Levi! Not anything gross, just hanging out. Loving him secretly. So weird!) To me, that shows the beauty of an incredible writer. I felt these things with Cath, the whole way through.
After reading two of Rowell’s books now, I feel as though she has a very specific (albeit amazing) style. Firstly, tension! The sexual and romantic tension she can conjure up from two teenagers wanting to hold hands is unbelieveable. I can feel myself blushing! I’m 14 years old again with butterflies in my stomach. It’s actually flawless. Secondly, endings. I’m always left with a few unanswered questions! However, I do appreciate how she doesn’t just tie it all with a ‘Happily Ever After’ ribbon, because life isn’t like that – but a girl can dream right?
In hindsight, I actually really loved this book, despite my reservations at the start. I look forward to seeing what Rowell has in store next.
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