Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
My Rating: ★★★ (3 of 5 stars)
Photo from Imgarcade
No book screams “I’m your soulmate!” louder than one that requires zero effort to connect with you, the kind of story that makes you believe the author has planted a bug in your room so she can document your daily life. Expectations like this bubbled up when I picked up Eleanor & Park author Rainbow Rowell’s bestselling “nerd power ballad”, the aptly titled Fangirl.
As what one can gather about the title, the proverbial fanatic lifestyle takes center stage in the book: gushing obsessively over fictional characters, staying up all night writing or reading fanfiction, creating fanart, buying collectibles, beefing up fandom vocabulary (I kid you not), and getting heavily involved in “shipping” (which, by the way, has got nothing to do with deliveries and packages). Cath, the main protagonist, has been living this life ever since she became a Simon Snow fan.
The Simon Snow series is a Harry-Potteresque magnum opus, complete with witches and wizards with a little bit of vampires thrown on the side. Cath and her twin sister Wren were addicted with the series—are in Cath’s case, since it seems like she’s the only one who still couldn’t let go of the fandom. Cath finds that college is a completely different world, and she’s going to have to go through it on her own. Wren doesn’t want to be roommates this time; she’s stuck with a cool albeit churlish roommate, an always-smiling farmboy who may or may not be her roommate’s boyfriend, an ambitious fiction-addicted classmate, and her dad whom she really can’t leave alone.
The book’s lynchpin zeroes in on Cath’s struggles as her current situation pries her out of her fandom-induced, antisocial-ish shell. It asks: Can Cath do this on her own?
A truly warmhearted tale, Fangirl can succeed in anchoring itself in the hearts of its target market. For one thing, Cath is easily a Tumblr girl! (What fandom-loving soul doesn’t frequent the Internet’s wild blue yonder that is the Tumblr nowadays?) Rowell knows all too well that the first big step in capturing your audience is to make your audience care for your character, and Cath is the perfect heroine she needs to achieve that goal.
However, you need more than a heart-magnet character to make a good story. I have no problems connecting with Cath; she’s practically 80% of what I was back when my time pie graph consists mostly of expanding my knowledge about my favorite shows and books. Reading about her is some kind of a throwback experience.
But as the story went on, my initial vise-like connection to her loosened up. The story went a tad dry in what I expected to be its “oases”—parts I hoped to shape Cath up not just as someone who is an exact, superficial mirror of most of its readers, but as a real person that could coax out genuine emotions in me. I hoped she would develop into someone I could connect with not because we are the same, but because I feel she’s a real person that I could perhaps talk to or console. But that did not happen; the story dragged almost uneventfully for a while, with random speed-hitches in moment-of-truth scenes.
Be that as it may, I think it still holds a charm that a true-blue fangirl/boy would not be able to resist. There’s love, there’s obsession, there are fears, and there are hopes. There’s a decent cast of characters too (Reagan is my personal favorite); there’s the constant presence of geeky ambiance, and the satisfying feeling of an outsider that is wholly accepted by someone as she is.
I liked how there are “excerpts” from the Simon Snow books, Cath’s fanfiction, and even some ‘Encyclowikia’ entries strewn across the novel. They were an entertaining bit of Fangirl’s “reality”, pulling the readers closer to its universe and making them part of it. Thumb up for the major props! :)
I could not say I enjoyed Fangirl in its entirety, but since I liked it for the most part, I’m giving it three out of five stars.