19 January, 2020

#RTWrites :: Looking Through Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl - @RT_writes

Fangirl is my second read from acclaimed author Rainbow Rowell, whose first novel Eleanor and Park is the stuff perfect YA novels are made of.

Eleanor and Park was a sweet, tender, moving and completely mesmerizing story about two misfit teens set in a very particular era. It was an interracial romance (Park is Korean) but it was so much more: it was a social commentary on life in small-town America.

Eleanor and Park is one of my favorite romances of all time. And I am dying for the sequel to get here already!

I wasn’t exactly apprehensive when I started Fangirl (borrowed from this blog’s owner with no plans of returning anytime soon 😜) because Rainbow Rowell’s voice is unique and confident enough that any story she wrote was bound to be fun.

New adult occupant Fangirl is a story about a story within a story, romance metafic done just right.

It begins with immediacy. There was a boy in her room.

And so I was immediately thrown into introvert Cath’s head. Cath Avery, Simon/Baz fanfic queen, identical twin to Wren Avery and freshest freshman in the University of Nebraska: literal cow country.

Cath has anxiety, the very real kinds which makes breathing difficult and every thought is magnified a million times with compounded doubts/what ifs and more. It is made more difficult because her twin wants to room with someone else and not Cath, so Cath’s lost her anchor, making this college experience immediately conflict-filled.

Cath’s head is only calm when she is writing fanfic for an obvious Potter-Malfoy couple named Simon Snow and Baz Pitch. She is a phenomenal writer (she has more readers of her fanfic than I do, tbh)… and for the first two months of the college year she doesn’t even go out to the college cafeteria to eat her meals.





Cath’s anxiety is unveiled like a flower blooming in the sun and I was caught up in it by page 20. It took me those pages to really dive into the story because, until then, I was dismissive of wanting to read yet another book about a neurotic college misfit who ends up She’s All That-ing herself. (spoiler alert: Cath doesn’t).

Cath’s head is a mess, yes (and whose isn’t, right?), but, god, I love how Rainbow has managed to create all the other characters and give them dimensions.

There is Wren and Cath’s father. Wren has dependency issues which she solves by becoming an almost-alcoholic. Cath’s father is a diagnosed bipolar who uses his mental illness to produce advertising gold. This family is still reeling from the loss of Cath’s mom, Laura, who left on 9/11. (It’s an actual line from the book).

You may think I’m only talking about all the problems these characters face through the book and it is true, the book is not about much else but the problems Cath, Wren, her dad have in freshman year …but it makes those problems relatable…fascinating.

That’s storytelling gold right there.

Then there is Reagan, the antithesis to Cath and Cath’s older roommate. She is bold, opinionated, undeniably smart, sexy, and extremely sociable. She is everything Cath is secretly aspiring to be and is afraid of. It is no wonder then that Cath becomes good friends with her, despite herself.

Reagan’s roommate has unexpected sparks of compassion and empathy that would come off as abrasive if it wasn’t leavened with a dose of common sense.

And then…there is Levi. I could do a whole blog on Levi Stewart – the most un-toxic masculine character I’ve read in forever.

Levi and Cath Fanart

Levi walks Cath down back from the library where she is doing her writing assignments (Cath’s a writer, she is going to be studying Fiction), or driving her through a blizzard and apologizing for it because he knows it’s a car wreck waiting to happen.

Levi can’t read (his dyslexia isn’t explicitly mentioned but inferred) but the way he handles it is yet another example of how without ego Levi Stewart is!

He’s a Nebraskan cowboy whose family runs a ranch and he is studying ranch management. He is also Reagan’s ex who respects Cath’s wishes the first time when she says: Please leave my room, you’re a stranger. Wait for your friend outside.

I mean…isn’t that beautiful? A guy who doesn’t push his presence on a girl while also never losing his essential maleness. Because he understands his first responsibility as a person is to make another person feel safe.

This is a guy I rooted for wholeheartedly, especially when he messes up and then tries to fix it.
This is why Fangirl works on basically all levels for me.

Rainbow took the bad and good parts of each character and made them interact in a continuous ebb and flow of information that wasn’t reminiscent of Eleanor and Park at all and yet was.

In the beginning, Cath’s sentences are tight, gritty, knots of words that slip and slide between each other. And then, slowly, through the magic of Levi (he might be my fave NA hero of all time) and Reagan’s no-nonsense friendship, Cath opens up. So do her thoughts. They become winding sentences that take their time getting to the point and make the journey the destination.

It’s kind of awesome, really.

I would like to try it some time.

Till next time,

Writer Gal

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