Pan Macmillan – January 30th 2014.
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.
I’m the sort of person who, when I start a book, I have to see it through to the end. This book almost made me wish I wasn’t that person. Normally, I can read a book like this in a day. This took me three. Throughout the first couple of chapters, I was seriously considering abandoning my ‘see-it-to-the-end’ attitude but I thought I would give it a chance. I had to keep repeating that phrase, ‘give it a chance’ in my head all throughout the novel. Not a good sign.
The plot itself, I don’t mind. A coming of age novel set in a Nebraskan college. A socially awkward, hardcore fangirl with an inferiority complex towards her identical twin sister and pretty much everybody else too. They were brought up by their bi-polar father after their mother left on September 11th. Yes, the September 11th. A moody roommate and a charming love interest. The fangirl discovering herself. It’s all fine. I don’t hate the plot. I don’t love it – it can get really repetitive ( I rolled my eyes at how many times the phrase “she rolled her eyes” was used) – but I don’t hate it.
The excerpts from ‘Simon and Baz’, I could do without. It was a lesser quality ‘Harry Potter’. I wish I’d skipped these bits completely They make the book unnecessarily long (and it drags quite a bit anyway). To be honest, I found the fact that Cath could only allow herself to be touched by Levi whilst reading, quite strange. It was like she wasn’t there when he was kissing her and touching her which made it feel a little rapey to me.
I had major issues with a few of the characters.
As a main character, despite suffering from social anxiety myself, I really couldn’t relate to her and I found her extremely unlikable. She was a terrible sister (OK, Wren wasn’t much better) and a neurotic girlfriend. She expected her college professor to think her fan fiction was amazing and when the professor dared to criticise her she reverted to being a three year old. Because she didn’t agree with Wren’s lifestyle, she basically abandoned her whilst complaining that Wren had done that very thing to her. She caught her crush kissing another girl and completely ignored him for weeks afterwards when in fact, she had sent the wrong signals to him by not returning his texts after he had kissed her. Cath thinks that Wren is the know-it-all one when in reality, Cath is the one who melts down when anyone dares to disagree with her. She expects Wren not to see their mother just because she doesn’t want to see her. I really don’t like Cath.
She has the nerve to set ground rules when Cath begins dating Levi. Erm, I’m pretty sure you cheated on him so what gives you the right to do that? She encourages Cath to pursue Levi but then confesses that she may at times want to remind Levi that he did actually like her first. Selfish, self-absorbed and vain much? Other than that, she is a pretty good friend to Cath though and is one of the characters I’m more fond of in this story.
Rowell portrays Levi as a perfect gentleman. Helping Cath with her heavy laundry basket and walking her home at night. All that corny stuff. But with other people his behaviour is different. He kisses a girl who he says himself meant nothing to him. Intelligent girls in his lectures are used to help him study. Levi claims this is innocent but then Cath herself questions as to why he doesn’t ask smart guys to help him too. When he gets together with Cath he notices that reading fan fiction relaxes her and so uses that to his advantage to be able to touch her and kiss her. His niceness and kindness seem more manipulative than genuine to me and he comes across as a creep.
Laura (The twins mother)
I dislike her purely for naming her twin girls ‘Cather’ and ‘Wren’. Of course, she is a complete a**hole too but it’s mainly the names.
I’m giving ‘Fangirl’ 1 star. The one star is for the plot. This feels harsh and I really tried to love it, I promise you I did. I read all of the glowing reviews and was excited to read it but I just ended up feeling like I had been sent a different book than all of those reviewers. I hate not liking a book that is universally loved. It makes me feel almost as though there’s something wrong with me for not liking it. I’m not giving up on Rainbow Rowell though. I’ve ordered her other books too and will give them a chance as I gave ‘Fangirl’ a chance.
Fangirl is a book I will not pick up again. It’s a shame really as I ordered the special addition hardback and it’s too pretty to just be left on the shelf but I don’t think I would ever have the patience to read it again.