I hadn’t heard of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl until a writing friend of mine suggested that we buddy-read it. I bought it soon after and as soon as people saw it had arrived, I was bombarded with messages: Have you read it yet? What did you think? Isn’t it wonderful? It was then that I realised how huge the hype surrounding this book was.
But now I’ve read it and my answer to those questions is simple: It wasn’t worth the hype!
Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. It was an enjoyable read and was relatable, perhaps more so than I’d care to admit. But it wasn’t as good as I had been told it would be and when I sit and think about it, I didn’t get much from it.
Plot wise, Fangirl was a little weak. In its most basic form, it revolves around a girl (Cath) in her first year of university. In a more detailed form, it’s about a twin in her first year of university who is obsessed with fan fiction.
There’s not much that pushes the narrative forward, despite there being so many opportunities to do so. Her twin, Wren, no longer wants to be joined at the hip and they drift apart. Her mother, who left them a decade ago, wants to reconnect. Her father, who appears to be bipolar, falls into the deep end for a bit. And then there’s Cath’s school life: the writing partner (Nick) that steals the credit for a project they wrote together, the roommate (Reagan) that takes her under her wing, the roommate’s ex-boyfriend (Levi) that has a huge crush on her with whom she falls in love.
But all these story lines become null and void as the novel progresses. Even Wren’s storyline, as interesting as it seems to begin with, is pointless in the grand scheme of things.
They don’t affect the protagonist in any way, or at least not in a way that I would consider interesting and intriguing in a novel. Everything that does affect her falls second to her fangirling which becomes obsessive and childish. Ultimately, she ends up forgetting about it a few chapters later. She leaves the story having learnt zilch. Instead, she simply grows used to how Reagan and Levi insert themselves into her life.
Cath doesn’t evolve as a character. She just gets a boyfriend.
And then you have the ending. The weak, almost rushed, ending that made you feel as though the writer hit one of those ‘I’ve written 400 pages and still haven’t finished’ walls which led to her adding in three chapters and ending the story as quickly as possible. It’s unfortunate because I felt like there was so much potential in Fangirl.
Despite the plot, Rowell’s writing is lovely. It’s easy to read and flows nicely. I liked Levi and Reagan, and the romance between Cath and Levi was one to be envied, but I don’t entirely understand what she was trying to say. I don’t get the point! I wonder whether the story would have been better if it had switched perspectives. One chapter from Cath’s perspective, the next from Wren’s. I feel like the switch between their lives, the way they see the world so differently but both have this connection to each other and the world of Simon Snow (the character that Cath’s fanfiction centred upon) would have been a far more compelling way to tell the story.
As for the inserted extracts of the fanfiction Cath is writing throughout the novel, although these occasionally seem to comment on the events occurring in the narrative (which is very clever), they usually seem a little disjointed and out of place. Sadly it wasn’t enticing enough for me to read the follow-up book which is based on the fanfiction itself.
Nope. Definitely not worth the hype.