Rating: 5 Stars
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is the story every nerd, geek, and passionate soul never knew they needed in their life. I’ll be honest, this review might be a bit of a mess because I read this book all in one day and while it might not have been a perfect book it was perfect for me so my critique might be more than a little biased.
For Cath heading off to college was bad enough because she had no career she wanted to get a degree for but when her twin sister says they shouldn’t room together her whole world comes toppling down. Now she’s rooming with a stranger who has a very chipper and persistently friendly boyfriend, her relationship with her sister is becoming strained, she worries constantly about her Dad, her writing teacher failed her for turning in fan-fiction as a class assignment and her anxiety keeps acting up in weird and unfortunate ways. The only peace she finds is in writing her continuation of her favorite childhood book series but even that has a deadline. She needs to finish her version of how the story ends before the author finishes the series and takes even that away from her forever.
This book explores the complexities not only of growing up and going away to school but also of what you can and cannot carry with you from your childhood without staying stuck in the past. It explores anxiety and introvertedness in an honest and straightforward way that was both compelling and sympathetic. I certainly found myself tearing up a few times, often at parts that I had experience in some way that was vastly different from the scenario the author was presenting. That, to me, is masterful writing.
I don’t have a sister but I could relate to the feeling of being left behind. I’ve never been to college but I can understand staying in a claustrophobic space rather than risking getting lost or committing some social faux pas in an unfamiliar place. I’ve never dated but I can imagine my anxiety rearing its ugly head in all sorts of ugly ways in that area. These are all things Rowell used to get under my skin and stay there long after I turned the final page.
Cath was so relatable with her anxiety and love of writing. The way she thought she could live off of protein bars and peanut butter rather than risk the dining hall. Even the way she actively tried to avoid making friends but when the extroverts around her finally pulled her into their orbit she bloomed into something she liked being. I also found myself wanting to sympathize with the things about her I couldn’t relate to because she was just that kind of character. She was a character you couldn’t help but love.
And speaking of characters you can’t help but love… I adored Levi! He wasn’t the perfect guy with swoony muscles and smooth moves that you expect in a YA novel but he was the kind of guy you desperately hope to meet in real life. How many girls know a guy who’s willing to walk them home every night, no matter the weather, without them even asking? See what I mean? He wasn’t gorgeous, he talked too much, and he could be awkward but it was all of those things and the way they came together just right that made him so endearing. Also the way Cath’s feeling for him grow and change were so immersive and well laid out that I found myself falling in love with him step by step, as a person, the same way she did.
The writing element of this book really struck a cord with me. I was never a huge fan-fiction writer but living in the worlds of characters I love is something I’m as obsessed with as Cath. I write fan-fiction in my head more than anything and Cath’s view of Baz and Simon had me feeling like I had grown up reading the Simon Snow books right alongside her. Also that scary feeling of writing original material, staring at a blank page and having to flesh out your own idea into something tangible? I felt her pain.
Right so overall this book was amazing. My only critique would be that the ending felt a tad rushed but that was overshadowed by everything else I loved and is easily forgiven. If you’ve ever been a fan of anything, if you’ve suffered from any kind of anxiety, if you’ve ever fallen in love, if a new phase of your life has ever scared you, and if you’ve ever struggled with family and your place in the world then I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s perfect.
Until next time, stay passionate and excelsior!
Featured Image Credit: Instagram: jess.abercrombie