Rainbow Rowell has done it again with Fangirl. Her captivating characters and twisting and turning storyline will have you up all night; why waste time sleeping when you can find out what happens with Cath?
Cather and Wren are twins (unexpected ones, and as their mother didn’t have another name she liked, she divided one), who have lived their entire lives as a pair. They have lived and breathed Simon Snow (an alternate universe Harry Potter) novels for years; the fantasy world helped them through the tough years when their mother disappeared from their lives. Their biggest disappointment when they turned 18 was realizing they were too old to attend Warwick School of Magicks!
The twins are starting college in Nebraska, and Wren pulls away from Cath, needing to have her own identity as they move away from home. She wants a new roommate, different classes, and different friends. Cath is more reserved, and cannot understand why Wren is suddenly so different. She still lives in the world of Simon Snow and the Mages, writes fanfic, quotes canon, worries about her unstable father, and fears the unknown.
But even her fanfic cannot keep her from reality. Her new roommate, Reagan, is a tough, worldly girl from a small town, with a best friend Levi, who hangs around and disrupts Cath’s life even more.
Levi and Reagan are great charcters. I love Reagan’s toughness, and her overwhelming practicality and acceptance of life being what it is. Levi’s existence seems to be based on making sure everyone around him is relaxed and having fun. They are both kind, even if it is not obvious at first blush. Cath takes her classes, writes with Nick in the library (we do NOT like Nick), and gradually creeps out of her shell. So gradually, she doesn’t seem to realize it is happening. And she doesn’t recognize her own strength when dealing with difficult and challenging situations.
Like Eleanor and Park, Cath and Wren are very much alive, dealing with real failures and real triumphs. They both had the capacity to annoy me, and make me laugh. Rowell has a natural voice with her characters, and loves a happy ending.
My only criticism is the “exerpts” from the Simon Snow books and Cath’s fanfic seemed to be filler. I did read them in the beginning, but did not find that they were adding to the story, for me. Yes, there were parallels to Cath’s life, and yes, they fit in well with her obsession with Simon, but the time it took to read them took me away from the story I cared about, without enhancing it.
Appropriate for all teens. Rowell deals with the issue of mental illness in the story, honestly, as well as some PG-13 discussion and hints of sex.
Fangirl is published by St Martin’s Press.