Wednesday, March 26, 2014

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

I know I normally don't do book reviews on Pub Hub, but if you haven't picked up Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell yet, do me a solid and make some time for it.

I've been trying to get my hands on Fangirl for a while. A friend I used to write fanfiction with kept telling me, you'll love it! You'll just get it.

And it's true. I went into Fangirl and immediately connected with Cath's dedication to her audience, as well as her love affair with a fictional world—the Simon Snow world.

Which helped, because Cath is hard to relate to at first. It's her first year away at college and she's totally antisocial and reclusive—the opposite of her twin sister, Wren, who's become great friends with her roommate and goes out drinking every night. Cath's never been on her own before—and neither has her dad, brilliant and sweet but a little unstable as he is. The only one challenging Cath's self-imposed bubble is her grouchy roommate's boyfriend, Levi, who just won't let up trying to be her friend.

But writing fanfiction about Simon and Baz keeps her going. And she's good at it. Fanfiction is great training for young writers; for Cath, who already feels like a fish out of water, writing inside a world she already knows is comforting.

Except that her fiction writing course is pushing her, and Cath is having a hard time handling the pressure of having to write something original, and finishing her epic Simon Snow fic before the next and final book of the series comes out.

I love Levi, as predicted. He's the kind of guy who kills you with kindness, who pummels you with his bubbly energy. I'd pick a Levi over an alpha male seven days of the week, and probably thirty-one days of the month (even if it was February). He steadily breaches the high walls Cath has erected around herself and for that, I adore him even more. 

And, of course, the unlikely friendship that forms between Cath and her roommate Reagan is endlessly amusing. Levi's seemingly limitless supply of smiles are the perfect complement to their snarking and belligerence.

But the thing that captured me most about Fangirl were the in-between chapter pages—the ones featuring snippets from alternatingly the "real" Simon Snow books, and Cath's fanfiction. I saw my own what-if fictions mirrored back at me. Even though Cath and I are as different as night and day in terms of personality, I completely understand why fanfiction is her security blanket. Simon Snow's world is one she understands, inside one that makes no sense to her--one where her twin sister has become a stranger and where her deadbeat mother is trying wriggle her way back into Cath and Wren's life.

Not to mention that Rowell is really just a kick-butt writer.

I can't say how Fangirl would read for someone who didn't have the history and relationship with fanfiction that I do. I'm sure fanfiction seems silly to outsiders—in fact, I think Reagan proves that. But great writers start in all kinds of ways, and once you get in deep enough with Cath, I think you'll understand. And, frankly, Fangirl is just a really fun book.


Read more of Kiersi's writing advice on her blog, The Prolific Novelista, or follow her on Twitter at @kiersi.

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