Thursday, 20 March 2014

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: Review

FangirlTitle: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Buy This Book: Book Depository / Amazon  

Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they're off to university and Wren's decided she doesn't want to be one half of a pair any more - she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It's not so easy for Cath. She's horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a romance far more intense than anything she's experienced in real life. Without Wren Cath is completely on her own and totally outside her comfort zone. She's got a surly room-mate 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. Now Cath has to decide whether she's ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she's realizing that there's more to learn about love than she ever thought possible ... (Goodreads summary)


WARNING: This review will be ridiculously long. I feel I need to fully explain every problem I had with Fangirl... And when words fail me, gifs will have to do!

imageOkay, it's time for me to be honest with the blogosphere: I didn't love Fangirl. For the first 300 pages or so I was really struggling with it and I was pretty mad about that. I kind of felt like the internet lied to me, Goodreads lied to me, the blogosphere lied to me and every single person who recommended this to me lied to me! I went in with my expectations ridiculously high because I had seen nothing but ridiculously high praise for it. And then I was just left feeling let down and disappointed. So please bear with me because this might be a lengthy one but I want to totally explain why I didn't get it.

I went into Fangirl not knowing an amazingly large amount about it because I didn't want to ruin anything for myself. I did know that Cath is a total fangirl who writes her own fanfiction and I loved the sound of that. I mean, if you're a lover of books then you have probably had at least one book that has made you totally fangirl. My worst one would of course be Harry Potter and I will fangirl till the day I die over those beauties. But I have to confess that I didn't realise how much of a big role that fanfiction would play in this novel.

I first must comment on Cath's name, which is actually Cather. Now it has a back story which does make total sense but the name itself is still hideous. I don't get why a person would actually name their child that... unless of course they hated their child. And seeing as Cath's mum ran off and left her, she probably did. Cather, I can't even figure out how you pronounce it. If it is how you start Catherine then it really is horrible and sounds far too much like a racial slur that's used over in South Africa.

When they dared to mentioned Harry Potter.
The fanfiction! I had a huge problem with the fanfiction in this book, mainly because I didn't care about it and didn't really understand why it was needed. Cath writes fanfiction based off a series of books called Simon Snow & the 'something something something something'. It is basically Harry Potter and that is the whole point, but that's where the problem began. It isn't Harry Potter, but it basically is and this is set in a world where Harry Potter still actually exists. That made absolutely no sense to me and it would have if Harry Potter didn't exist in this book. At one point Cath gets a telling off from a professor for using fanfiction for her writing piece, saying that it is plagiarism and I wanted to laugh. This is in a book where we are supposed to believe that during the time when Harry Potter was still being released that a woman was able to get the Simon Snow books published. A series where an 11-year-old orphan boy gets into the Watford School of Magicks to become a magician and realises he is their only hope against an evil force trying to destroy the magic world. Seriously, that would not get published because that is plagiarism. As I said, if this was a world where Harry Potter didn't exist then I would get it, but in a world where it does it makes no sense that Simon Snow would even get published. Not without the author having a HUGE lawsuit on her hands. But no, in this no one seems to notice that it's a carbon copy of Harry Potter and instead it's sold over 380 million copies worldwide. That I can't buy and that really bothered me because then the whole book just didn't feel realistic or at all real to me. The moment they mentioned Harry Potter and I realised it still existed within this world I about lost the plot altogether.

I'm with Harry on this one.
Then there was the huge sections of Cath's fanfiction that we had to read and then the chapter starters that were either parts of the actual books or fanfiction. It was really boring. I couldn't care less about fake fanfiction based on a fake book that's just supposed to be a Harry Potter equivalent. Why do I care for scenes between Baz & Simon, two characters I have never heard of, read about or care about. That completely made the whole experience a lot less enjoyable for me. Thankfully after about 250 pages I actually gave up and skipped the fanfiction and Simon Snow parts all together and it was for the best. I began to enjoy the book a whole lot better after that and I wish I had skipped them from the very beginning.

In regards to the rest of the story, I kind of feel like saying what story because to me there wasn't much of one. This book was 459 pages long and yet barely anything really happens. This book could have done with, and probably really needed to be about 100-150 pages shorter. For quite a while it just involved Cath sitting in her room, writing fanfiction, avoiding people and not wanting to socialise with anyone. I think Cath had the potential to be one of those characters that I can totally identify with. This quote in particular is spot on:

'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.'

But I just couldn't get behind Cath because of how impossible she was at times. I didn't like the fact that she wouldn't let Levi into the room if Reagan wasn't there. Who makes their roommate's friend sit outside on the floor just because they don't want to make friends? She actively tries to not make friends and that infuriated me. I actually understood her twin sister Wren a whole lot more than I did Cath, and I am way more like Cath than Wren. But I got why Wren wanted to get away from Cath, to go out and make friends and actually live a little. I couldn't understand why Cath constantly tried so hard to not make friends with people and not socialise and that's coming from someone who is socially inept themselves. She got invited places and could have made friends but she just didn't even want to. I hated that about her. It would have been okay if it was just social anxiety, but at times it just seems like she isn't at all interested in the outside world... only writing about a world somebody else created. I wanted her to go out and live a little.

Levi was an okay character but a little on the dull side, especially as far as the romantic love interest goes. He was beyond sweet, he smiled constantly and wanted to be friends with everyone. He's the guy who will chat to anyone he meets and wants everybody to like him. But, if I am totally honest, I did not understand his attraction to Cath. I felt like it had to be 99.9% based on her looks because he barely has one conversation with her because she never talks to him. She brushes him off any time he tries to talk to her, she makes him sit out in the hall, she doesn't accept any of his invites to go to parties or hang out. And yet, even though she barely says five words to him, he really likes her and really wants to be with her. Why? Honestly I don't see any reasoning behind his attraction to Cath and I don't mean that in a bad way. I just really feel like I wasn't shown any real reasons why Levi liked Cath. She was mean to him, she practically ignored him and she never expressed an interest at all. It left me feeling like Levi must have some serious issues himself.

Reagan was IT for me! I absolutely adored Cath's room mate Reagan because she seemed like a real character to me. She was funny and she made me actually laugh out loud reading this book. She had some of the best lines in this book and I enjoyed it a lot more when she was around. I love her mostly for the fact that she describes Cath so well. Reagan was instantly likeable and she made this whole book ten times more enjoyable for me, without her I would have been lost.

I don't even have any complaints about the writing. The writing is solid and it hasn't put me off reading the authors work. I just think my dislike was a mixture of high expectations, not liking all the fake fanfiction and not completely understanding Cath and Levi as characters or as a couple. I think I might try one of her other books to see if I do better with one of those.



3/5 Stars

I really struggled at the very beginning, in fact I was pretty bored. The Simon Snow aspect seemed irrelevant to me and unnecessary. This was about 150 pages too long. Cath was a character I should have easily been able to understand and identify with but I just couldn't. She never tried at anything. Levi's attraction to her never made sense to me as she did absolutely nothing to warrant it. 


I'm not fangirling for Fangirl.




Discussion:

Okay, blogosphere this is where I actually want to discuss. I have seen nothing but rave reviews for this book and I need to understand this. What have I missed? What did you get that I just didn't? Did you love Simon and Baz? Should I try a different Rainbow Rowell book?

OR

If it turns out that I am not the only person on the entire planet that wasn't fangirling over this then I definitely want to hear your thoughts too. What was it that you didn't enjoy? Did you struggle with the fanfiction? Did you understand Levi & Cath as a couple?


30 comments:

  1. First off, those gifs had me rolling. ROLLING.

    Second off, I read this review first with my jaw dropped and my eyes wide, then with just my eyes bulging. I also found a lot of praise for this book, and when I ventured to Goodreads to check out the blurb I was quite excited for it, completely identifying with the Fangirl (and I must embarrassedly admit fanfiction) experience.

    But your review has altered that perception a lil bit... the whole Harry Potter/Simon Snow existing together and one parodying the other is a bit bizarre. Seeing as the author obvs couldn't publish HP fanfiction I wonder why it wasn't just left at Simon Snow fics and letting the readers pick up the clues.
    The other thing that surprised me is Cath's characterisation as you described it. Most of the fangirls I know aren't just Fan Girls - they are insanely and excessively passionate about their fandom, and it seems Cath deviates from what the usual perception of a 'Fangirl' IS. Which could be a good thing! Depending.

    Well, if I can charge through a good few dozen books this summer, I might still give it a go. I no longer feel the urgency to read it sooner rather than later, though.

    Your reviews are interesting!! Keep up the blog power!

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    1. Heehee, I am glad you enjoyed the review. I was a little worried to post it because of how many people loved the book. I think all the high praise might have got to me a bit and raised my expectations to a ridiculously high level. I really expected to be sucked into this story, completely relate to Cath (I am socially inept and prefer staying in too) and love the romance as much as everyone else did. But then I just didn't.

      Cath was far too socially inept for me to relate to. I have friends and can still make a conscious effort to talk to people if they talk to me first. But she even admits to actively trying to NOT make friends, even though she could definitely do with some. I just couldn't relate to that.

      I hope my review will lower your expectations a little and then the book might blow you away. I just feel like I didn't get it the way others did and I am actually disappointed that I didn't love it as much as everyone else did.

      Cath is OBSESSIVELY passionate about her fandom. There isn't really anything in her life that is of more importance to her than Baz & Simon, except her sister and dad.

      I'd love to see what you make of it when you do read it, especially since you might identify with it more than I did (if you wrote fanfiction?). I have wrote 1 or 2 fanfics before but given up after a chapter or two lol.

      Thanks for checking out the review! :)

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  2. I just ignored that mistake she made about HP existing in that universe, because honestly, that was a mistake. I think if she wanted to make a gesture to that whole fandom, then 1) she has already done it with the book. It's a book about the HP fandom, and 2) mention it outright in the credits. I think it was supposed to be a sneaky wink, but you are total correct. It doesn't make sense and the two would never exist in real life.

    Otherwise, I really enjoyed pretty much everything you disliked. I felt so much sympathy for Cath, I saw how sometimes we all act that way and need to just let others in. And the fanfic and Simon Snow book snippets were great to me. It made it more real, and they were super interesting. BUT, to each his own. I totally understand how you might not enjoy the story if the character doesn't resonate with you, and the fanfic too.

    Will you read another book by Rainbow Rowell?

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    1. ... this was really interesting too!! Thanks for sharing. It would be cool to see some more reader comments weighing up the pros and cons.

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    2. I felt like the HP mention might have been a mistake too. I think it just threw me off as soon as it was mentioned, just because than the existence of Simon Snow seemed silly to me. I thought SS was supposed to be the HP equivalent, which I am sure it was and the HP mention wasn't really thought through.

      I think I just didn't understand the SS snippets because I didn't know the story/characters they were coming from. I was just a little bored by those and would have preferred less of it.

      I will definitely try another Rainbow Rowell book. The writing was solid and I feel like with the right characters I could fall completely in love with one of her books. I am just worried about being disappointed again.

      I have Attachments and Eleanor & Park sitting on my bookshelf so I will definitely get to them at some point.

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  3. Ooh. I just bought this book... yesterday. I hadn't previously read any reviews of it and chose it because I'm on Tumblr a lot and immersed in the world of fan fiction somewhat, plus I have social anxiety and a dire need to not be around anyone, so I felt I would relate! I'm a little worried now after reading your review (the book is rather thick for a YA), but I'll go into it with an open mind.

    ★ Under The Mountain ★

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    1. You might fall as in love with it as others did. I have social anxiety and I don't like to be around people I don't know, which made me think that I would totally relate to Cath and then I just didn't. I was surprised by that and can't completely say what it was about her that I didn't connect with.

      I'd love to see what you thought of it after you've read it :)

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  4. This is such a fantastic review! I agree with you on a lot about this book. Overall, I enjoyed the book, though it did at times bore me and I gave up entirely on reading the Simon Snow parts. In the end, I was disappointed with this book because of the hype that surrounded it.

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    1. I felt the same and I wish I had skipped the Simon Snow parts from the very beginning. They weren't necessary and I don't know why we needed so much information on it.

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  5. Wow! Nice review. I have not read this book yet but I really want to. Especially after seeing this review. Because whenever I see a slightly negative (although 3 stars isn't bad!) review, I want to read it myself to see what I think. So hopefully I'll be able to get it soon! :D

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    1. I didn't want to give it a really low rating because, although I didn't love it, it is really well written. I'd love to see what you make of it, so I hope you can get to it soon :)

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  6. Sorry to hear that this one wasn't for you.

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  7. I totally understand your issues with the book, I feel like it appeals to certain type of person. It's a book that's lives and dies on the characterization. I'll admit, although I enjoyed it, I found the fan fiction parts annoying. I could've lived without those parts. It was so overwhelming.

    Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books

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    1. I definitely agree that the fanfiction was overwhelming, I definitely felt like it wasn't actually needed in the story. I am hoping to do better with something else by the author.

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  8. I recall seeing all your updates on Goodreads about Fangirl and it didn't surprise me really. After so much hype, there's only so much until your expectations are through the roof and there are times it just falls disappointing, like for me and The Book Thief, we just didn't gel really, I found it boring and couldn't carry on. I actually completely agree with you, I think the reason a book based of 'fan girls' has never been done is because our lives are actually quite boring. We do the same fandom related things everyday and even we burn out. I think it's definitely about time 'favourite' books got some criticism, however, I am sorry you didn't enjoy it like you wanted to.. Great review though, ranty, but great! :D

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    1. The hype made my expectations so high that I think this was bound to disappoint to some extent, I was just surprised by how much. I had that exact problem with Fangirl, I just got really bored and wanted to stop reading. I hate when I read a book with so much hype and end up disappointed, I rant sooooooo much!

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  9. Uggh, I really felt that this books didn't live up to the hype at all (neither did Rowell's Eleanor and Park for me). It was just kind of boring and super unrealistic in my mind (my review of Fangirl is here--> http://mybookishramblings.blogspot.ca/2014/01/fangirl.html ) Sorry I don't know how to link nicely!

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    1. That's okay! :) I am really happy to find someone else who didn't enjoy the book or find it all that realistic. I was starting to feel like the ONLY one.

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  10. Awww....I wanted to read this book, but now I'm not sure. Cath sounds a lot like me cause not only do I have social anxiety, I also don't have the desire to go out to places and have "fun." Fun is in quotations because other people's idea of fun is my definition of boring. I don't understand loud parties cause it's too loud, the Iights are always too dimmed, and I can't read there.

    If Cath is like that then I think I might be able to stand her a little bit, but the way you described her made her seem like a rat hiding from the big bad world. That's like me multiplied by 300. Gah! That's too much! Go outside and play, Cath!

    Thanks for the review. I'll still read it, but I will try to lower my expectations of this book.

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    1. Haha, I completely agree! I HATE loud parties, I much prefer staying indoors with a good book. I thought that would mean that I would connect to Cath, but I really couldn't no matter how hard I tried.

      It felt to me that she was trying too hard to not make an effort, not just because of her social anxiety. She definitely needed to go out and live a little!

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  11. Oooh, I've been looking forward to reading your review. ;) OKAY. You know all my thoughts already, and look I think you were pretty overly nice rating it 3 when you had so many issues with it. And I DO understand the things you didn't like. I absolutely skipped all the Simon/Baz fanfic stuff. I didn't read any of it. Because, um, who cares? That's not what I'm reading for. Secondly, I AM kind of mad that Rainbow Rowell could make a universe exactly the same as Harry Potter and not BE Harry Potter. It doesn't make sense to me and I'm not sure 100% how that's even legal to do?? I mean, Simon Snow was just a rip-off...and I thought that was the point, like how the beginning of the book had that Wikipedia page thingy but it was called something else. (Gah, hopefully I'm making sense. I feel like I'm blathering.) So I didn't like the fanfic part at all, really, which is ironic. I DID love Cath, but, um....the "Cather" I didn't like. I though Levi was being a pain when he called her that and then my sister said, "No, that's her full name.". Um. No. It sounds like a catheter or something. o.O Sorry to even mention that! But that's what I was thinking the whole time. -_-

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    1. You're not blathering at all, I totally get it. I thought Simon Snow was supposed to be Harry Potter, but clearly the author couldn't use Harry Potter for legal reasons or something. But then she goes and mentions Harry Potter and I was like WHAT THE HELL!?!

      It does sound like Catheter!!!! And a racial slur. So definitely not a name you should be willingly giving your child.

      I decided to give it 3 stars because, although I had issues with it, it was well written. I honestly believe that without the pointless Simon Snow parts, I could have enjoyed this more and I wish I had skipped them from the beginning. But then can I really say I enjoyed the book when I skipped half of it? >.<

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  12. I actually really liked this book (four stars from me!) BUT I agree with so much of what you said.

    THE HP STIL EXISTING THING. What?! I hated that. I thought Rowell was using Simon Snow because she couldn't say 'Harry Potter' for legal reasons or whatever, but that it was clear Simon Snow was meant to be a HP replacement. But then they mentioned HP and I was like WHAT?! It was laughable to think these books would be so popular (or even get published) and that nobody would make a comparison. Or that Cath's teacher would call the author one of the greatest writers of their time LOLNO.

    I also did not care for the fan fiction excerpts at all. If they were relevant in some way, like reflected Cath's life, or her situation, or had some kind of metaphorical purpose, then that would be fine. But as it were they were just random and pointless :/

    That being said, I did enjoy the book overall and felt like it was a really cute, fun story that left me smiling.

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    1. I really hated that Simon Snow still existed, I just didn't get that at all. I see that Simon Snow is supposed to be the Harry Potter of this universe but then she can't have Harry Potter still existing within that universe. I feel like maybe the author messed up there, but how did an editor or someone not say that it was probably best to NOT mention Harry Potter at all.

      They were so random and I had such a problem with them. I feel like I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had skipped them. But if I am then skipping a third of the book can I really say that I loved/enjoyed the book.

      I am glad you enjoyed it, I just couldn't get over certain things and it made it hard to start to enjoy the book.

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  13. I really enjoyed this book, but I had some of the same thoughts and feelings you did. The fake fan fiction…I skipped it too. I started off reading it, but then I was bored with it and, to be honest, I have no idea why it was included in the book. Why? What did it add to the story? As far as nothing really happening, I just viewed this book as a college slice of life story, which I actually love, and it was more about the characters than about action, plot, etc. So that was fine for me. Cath…I agree with you, she was a bit of an odd character and I couldn't relate at all to her. Same thing, I understand being nervous and out of your comfort zone, but she didn't seem to have any interest in meeting people or having friends. Why? That wasn't really explained very well, but I did enjoy Levi (even though he made me mad sometimes) and Reagan (loved her!). And I thought the romance part was cute, but as you point out, it's difficult to understand why Levi liked Cath. My main complaint is that I thought the author portrayed Cath and Wren a little to extreme, especially when it came to drinking and going to parties, etc. Basically, either you don't go out and have fun, or you do, but you almost turn into an alcoholic. I know that probably does happen (and freshman year is more likely to have that sort of extreme behavior) but that bothered me a bit. Although Reagan and Levi and other minor characters were shown to be social and drinking without ending up in the hospital. Anyway, great review and sorry you didn't enjoy it that much. Sometimes the hype can ruin a book, but sounds like you probably wouldn't have liked the book no matter what. ~Pam

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    1. I wish I had skipped the fanfiction from the very beginning because then I might have enjoyed this book more. It didn't add anything to the story as far as I was concerned and that really bothered me. Could I really say I enjoyed the book if I was skipping about a third of it?!? I don't know if I could.

      I adored Reagan, I would 100% read a book that was focused on Reagan and not on Cath. Cath bored me to tears at times and I got so frustrated with her. I understood why Wren didn't want to room with her and wanted to go off and do her own thing!

      I definitely agree about Cath and Wren - they were extreme. Wren was portrayed badly for me, I felt like she could have been a much better character. I didn't like that she was just seen as the horribly irresponsible one. I think wanting to move out and separate herself from Cath showed real maturity - and then she turns into an immature, uncontrollable party animal.

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  14. I just finished this book and I too found the fanfiction parts a little over done. I found myself skipping all those fanction sections where she was reading to Levi. It started out a little too slow for me and some parts were too corny. It didn't pick up for me until about 100 pages in.

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    1. I just really couldn't deal with all the Simon Snow fanfiction, it was too much for me. I skipped them by the end as well. I just never really got into this one or fell in love with the characters.

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  15. Oh and I was thinking all the time about how great their names are! :D

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