November 4, 2013

The Tip of My Crazy Iceberg

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Release Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: Macmillan | St. Martin's Press
Pages: 433 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
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?

And does she even want to  move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Thoughts on Fangirl
This has definitely been the year of Rainbow Rowell for me. Fangirl marked my third Rowell book this year, and it certainly solidified her place in my list of favorite new-to-me authors I discovered in 2013. And I have a feeling she'll have a place on my auto-buy list for the foreseeable future.

I first read Attachments based on a recommendation from a few bloggers I trust, and I absolutely fell in love with it. There was something about the characters that I found so charming and delightful. Almost immediately, I began telling my co-workers who liked to read that they just HAD to check out that book.

Then, I started seeing all the buzz building for Eleanor and Park. Rowell's young adult debut was garnering really high praise - and seemed like such a hit in the blogging community. I pre-ordered a copy, but it took me a few months to read it. When I finally did, I felt like I was somewhat in the minority. While I could clearly see Rowell's talent, I wasn't quite as enamored by the book as so many other seemed to be. I didn't dislike it, but I definitely didn't love it either. I ended up deciding not to review because I felt so conflicted about the book and wasn't sure I could adequately express my opinion on it.

So, it was with a little trepidation that I pre-ordered Fangirl. Here was what I knew going into it:

1. I absolutely adored the cover.
2. I knew that Rowell could write like nobody's business.
3. I was so intrigued by the summary, but also a little nervous.

Why the fear? Well, I could tell that Simon Snow had hints of Harry Potter about him, and I jumped into Harry Potter long after it had achieved its fame. The books had all been published, and the movies had all been released. In fact, I did the thing that makes most readers gasp in horror: I saw the films before I ever read the books. I know, I know! So, that experience made me wonder if I'd be able to connect to the idea of this fandom.

Interestingly enough, I thought this element of Fangirl was incorporated in a way I hadn't expected. I expected Cath to be this raving fan who was so invested in the fandom that I couldn't relate to her. I knew from the summary that she wrote fan fiction, so I imagined she'd be so wrapped up in this fictional world that she was disconnected from reality at times. Yes, that was occasionally the case in Fangirl, and Cath is definitely an awkward and reclusive character. But Fangirl was really about how this fictional world became an escape for her... and also how it became a burden, too. It was more about the way the fandom affected Cath's life and relationships than it was about the fandom itself.

Cath's fan fiction was incorporated throughout the book, but it was never in enough depth to really make me interested in Simon Snow. I appreciated that she had something to pour her heart into, but I did keep wanting her to focus on what was happening in the world around her. Cath is a difficult character - painfully shy and socially awkward. Wren, her twin, is the exact opposite. She's social and fun and wants to have the stereotypical college experience. And that means living apart from her sister. Personally, I loved that Cath was pushed out of her comfort zone and forced to live with someone else.

I felt like the book really highlighted how Cath had distanced herself from real world relationships in favor of online friendships. She'd become so invested in the fandom that she was hard to relate in a real life setting. I loved that the book really focused on Cath's developing relationships with the people around her and the richness they brought to her life. It didn't discredit her online friendships, but I did love that Cath was slowly, painfully learning to live more fully and become more invested in the world.

There have been so many bloggers who have expressed their feelings for this book more eloquently and in better detail. I just feel like I have so many thoughts that I can't even focus them down enough to properly explain what I loved about this book. I adored that family relationships were a major factor. I got a kick out of Cath's roommate - and out of imagining what it would be like to live with both of these ladies. I found myself incredibly frustrated by Cath's sister, and yet connected to that storyline in a way I didn't expect. As the oldest of four siblings, I found myself identifying with the way those relationships alter and change as you grow up. And being set in college just made this book even more perfect. It's a time of such change and upheaval - and I appreciated that Cath's coming-of-age felt more familiar than most of what's being touted as "New Adult" these days.

And then there's Levi. I honestly had no idea that eyebrows and reading aloud could be so.damn.sexy. I kid you not, this boy deserves a spot on my all-time book boyfriends list. He seriously stole my heart, and he's probably my favorite character in this entire book. I enjoyed Cather, but I loved Levi. I can't even really talk about the romance in this book because I won't be able to contain my complete and total gushing.

Honestly y'all, I feel like I haven't said anything new or original about Fangirl. In case you can't tell, I absolutely loved it. I tore through my copy at lightning speed, and I'm already thinking about a much-needed re-read because I didn't take enough time appreciate Rowell's clever and smart writing. There were SO MANY quotable lines, but I feel like I barely absorbed them because I was so smitten with the story and the characters. I still can't decide if I love Fangirl or Attachments more, but I do know that I love Rowell THE MOST. She's an incredibly talented author, and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next! I know her next book is titled Landline, and it could honestly be her version of the phone book and I'd be sold. She's just that good.

So Quotable
"Look at you. You've got your shit together, you're not scared of anything. I'm scared of everything. And I'm crazy. Like maybe you think I'm a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I'm a complete disaster."

16 comments:

  1. It makes me so happy that you adored this book! I read it and really liked it too, mostly because I found Cath to be a relatable character. Her freshman college experience reminded me, in a few ways, of my own, and I love that Rowell was able to evoke that feeling from me.

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    1. Yes, I really liked Cath! And I wish more books were set during college and were like this (not like NA). I want more experiences I can relate to in books!

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  2. I so look forward to this one. I also love the quote you chose.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it! It was such an enjoyable book, and there were so many quotable moments.

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  3. I'm so glad that you liked Fangirl. It's definitely the year for Rainbow Rowell in my little world too. She's an auto buy for me. I'm sorry you weren't madly in love with E&P. It's my favorite of Rowell's books, but Fangirl is a close second, and Attachments third. But I love them.

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    1. Definitely the year of Rainbow Rowell! So happy that I found her this year because she's brought me many hours of delightful reading :) Glad it's been the same for you!

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  4. "It was more about the way the fandom affected Cath's life and relationships than it was about the fandom itself."
    Agreed. And like you said in your review, I think it was good that the focus was more on Cath's "real life" concerns and relationships. But I suppose I come from the other spectrum from you in that I LOVED the HP fandom culture and read all the books as they released and dislike the movies. I read lots of fanfiction and dabbled in writing a little myself, and I feel as though Rowell doesn't give that section of the book enough heart. It just felt so superficial compared to other aspects that it bothered me. But after reading your review, I can totally see why it would work for other readers with differing experiences to mine.
    I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much, Hannah! I hope that I can find a Rowell book that I end up loving myself. :)

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    1. I can understand how that aspect would feel superficial if you're coming from the other end of the fan fiction spectrum. I'm sure it was difficult to balance to two - knowing there would be readers with so many different levels of experience. Glad my review helped you see how that element worked for someone more on my end!

      I hope you read Attachments soon. I think that one might be my favorite! I just go back and forth with this one. Haha!

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  5. I was a little nervous about your reaction to this one, and I'm psyched you liked it so much. I agree, so quotable too. I have to get my hands on a real copy so I can remember all of the lines I liked so much. I'm still not sure how I would have felt if the fan fic went deeper? It almost felt like it could have been another side of the marketing campaign or something... kind of like how books are mentioned in the HP series and years later we get the whole thing to buy? You know what I mean? I thought it was enough of a piece... so many people kind of felt alienated because of the lack of depth or adding more would have been too much and not having it all would have been... strange? Ah. There is no perfect answer here and I'm rambling. Yay for a Rainbow hit!

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    1. I totally agreeeee! I think more would have been too much for me. Like it would have felt too awkward or ill-fitting with the rest of the story, and I don't know that I would have loved this book as much as I did otherwise. Yay for Rainbow and now I'm dying for MORE!

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  6. I think this is my favorite book of the year and I'm so glad you liked it. Like you I was hesitant to read it and thought there was no way I would relate to some crazy fan, but I fell in love with Cath and just got her in this amazing way. And that quote you pulled out is probably my favorite (and I had a lot of quotes that I loved in this book).

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    1. Yes, there were SOOOOO MANY quotes in this book that I loved! I want to re-read it soon and go at a slower pace so I can really just savor the writing in this one. It was so, so good!

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  7. Oooh Hannah, I loved your review. I felt the same way when I was writing mine in that there are a ton of other reviews where people actually eloquently wrote down there thoughts, I felt like I was gushing and gushing and that I wasn't saying anything that others did :P Maybe it's because it's just SO AMAZING!

    I totally agree about the quotable lines, I was laughing for days over two specific lines... the "rapey" situation and when Cath was described as a kitten with his head stuck in a kleenex box. Seriously. Who thinks of that comparison? Amazing.

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    1. Hahaha! Yay for gushing and gushing and gushing <3 This book seriously won me over in a way I didn't expect! I'm really so in love with Rainbow and her writing. Have you already read Attachments? I hope so! But please do soon if you haven't!

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  8. I keep hearing such great things about this book and Rainbow Rowell! I've yet to read anything by her, but am so excited to. Hopefully when I finally have the chance to pick this up it manages to live up to all the hype I've given it.

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    1. I really hope that Rainbow lives up to your expectations! E&P was my least favorite, and I think Attachments *might* be my favorite. I change my mind from day-to-day whether it's that one or this one :)

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