Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
3 out of 5 stars
I really liked some parts of Fangirl. It was engaging through most of the book, and I was truly interested in the characters and what was going to happen to them. The cast is vivid and relatable through most of the story, so it was easy to keep going and finish this book. However, there were a lot of things that bugged me in this story too, leaving me with a very conflicted mixed reaction.
What I liked about Fangirl was the relationships. I liked Cath having difficulty navigating the social landscape of college. I like Wren wanting her independence and being afraid of only ever being known as one of the twins. I liked their dad being a constant worry in Cath’s life, and part of the reason she’s so anxious. I liked Levi being cute and charming. I liked Reagan being down to earth and in-your-face. I liked all of those things and how they interacted to create a fully developed social life in the story. The conflicts were believable, and kudos to Rowell for getting me invested.
What I didn’t like, primarily, was the seeming absence of a plot. Cath’s relationship with her mother goes nowhere, not even to say that it’s never resolved. It just…stops. Her relationship with her sister is conveniently wrapped up so that Wren is a completely different person in the last few chapters of the book. Levi and Cath are together for no real reason, and Levi puts up with Cath for no real reason. Cath’s probable social anxiety is never dealt with, and even the smaller plot points of Cath’s short story and her fanfiction just kind of go away never to be mentioned again. For a coming of age story it left a lot of ends loose, and many of those things would have been just fine if they were excised from the story altogether.
My second issue was that a lot of the description felt overwritten. After all the ways Rowell described eyes and hands and hair and stomachs it was beginning to get annoying.
One final bother was the fanfiction and story snippets in between the chapters. I like the concept, and even some of the shorter snippets, but overall they were a drag. Some went on way too long and I just didn’t enjoy them at all. Nor did I enjoy having to listen to Cath read an entire fanfiction in real time in the book, it was just too boring. Part of the reason people like fanfiction is because it gives them more with characters they already love. But, I have no reason to love Baz or Simon, so being forced to sit through an entire fanfic about them was almost insufferable.
Overall, Fangirl has some great parts. The characters are generally interesting and fresh, and the book moves along at a good pace. The author even had some really great lines and thoughts. It wasn’t a waste of time, but I certainly won’t be re-reading this, or generally recommending it either.
I listened to this story as an audiobook, and while it was generally good there were more than a few points where the narrator was not able to distinguish the characters from each other very well. Other than that it was an enjoyable listen. I especially liked how they used a different reader for the inter-chapter snippets.