Tag Archives: Rowell

Fangirl

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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.

Eleanor & Park

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Rainbow Rowell writes books that make you remember what it is like to be young and in love. Set in the 1980s, Eleanor & Park explores that first, unexpected, sweet occurrence that convinces you that young love lasts forever.

Eleanor and Park are two 16 year olds, from very different worlds, who live right around the corner from each other.  Eleanor is a tall, awkward redhead, the eldest in a family of five children.  She wears ill-fitting clothes that look like they come from Goodwill (because they do), and lives with an abusive out of work stepfather and a mother who just doesn’t want to see what goes on.  Eleanor is a realist.

Park is the eldest son of an American war vet and Korean immigrant, in a home filled with love and expectation.  His father is tough on him, pushing him to succeed.  His mom is loving and judgmental, but wants what is best for her family, always. Park also sees things the way they really are.

Yet somehow, by accident, the two discover each other, and find that their obvious differences cover some very important similarities.  Eleanor discovers a kindness in Park she has never experienced before, a selflessness and love.   Park finds a girl with a very hidden love of music and stories that she is not allowed to express at home, for fear of losing it.  Her selflessness is directed at protecting her siblings from their reality.

There is darkness.  Eleanor’s stepfather is the centre of her homelife; it is not until the final chapters that the reader can actually understand that it is not just hatred of the man who abuses her mother, but real fear for her own life that Eleanor lives with every day.

The ups and downs of the relationship as Eleanor and Park discover each other, and learn to handle the baggage that each family brings, is wonderful.  Rowell has an amazing handle on the teen voice, and I can vividly see the characters in their settings as I read the story.  In fact, I am sometimes convinced I went to school with all of them.

This is a great young romance, filled with hope and honesty.

It is appropriate for a more mature teen, as the language around the abuse can be quite graphic.

Eleanor & Park is published by St. Martin’s Press