Book Review: Rainbow Rowell – Fangirl

I am very grateful to both John Green (yes, that John Green) and Louisa Reid (author of Black Heart Blue) for their enthusiastic reviews which prompted me to purchase Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, and begin what I imagine will be a long and happy relationship where she writes books and I read them.

I adored Eleanor and Park. Loved it. In fact, at this time it’s probably my favourite book this year, that’s how much I liked it. So I was incredibly happy to discover that not only were there more books where it came from (Attachments will be the first book of my next paycheck), but that Fangirl, Rowell’s newest, was available on NetGalley.

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Fangirl is the story of Cather (Cath) Avery, fan of Simon Snow (fictional wizard, just not THAT fictional wizard) as she adjusts towards a new life at university; dealing with snarky roommates, confusing boys, and a growing distance in her relationship with her twin sister Wren (LOL is perhaps the most appropriate word at this point?). As the book blurb asks, ‘Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? Or will she just go on living inside somebody else’s fiction?’

I loved it. I’m a huge sucker for coming of age stories, so that’s no real surprise. I thought the characterisation of Cath was perfect; frustrating at times, yes, but appropriately so – having been that very shy and socially awkward university student, Cath’s reluctance to step outside her boundaries and to play it safe wasn’t unrealistic to me, and the slow build  of her relationships with the rest of the ensemble cast fit this world perfectly.

While the other books I’ve read about/referencing fandom have been something of a mixed bag (I liked Nick Hornby’s Slam, wasn’t a fan of C.J. Skuse’s Rockoholic), I thought that Rowell handled it well, and it wasn’t a surprise to learn that she had thrown herself into the world before writing about it. The sections featuring excerpts from the Simon Snow ‘novels’ and Cath’s fanfiction slotted in seamlessly  and while I was a little confused at first as to whether the aforementioned Snow was a copyright-appropriate way of writing about the Harry Potter phenomenon, The Boy Who Lived is also discussed by name, so who knows. A question I’d like to ask, given the chance.

Either way, this was a very well written book that I devoured in a sitting and a bit. Less immediate than its predecessor, and by the very nature of each’s subject matter it didn’t pull at my heartstrings quite so much; it felt a bit more like a comfy hug of a book than anything else. However, sometimes that’s just what you need, and this book did not disappoint. No doubt I’ll be buying a real copy of it once it’s out.

Many thanks to NetGalley.com and St. Martin’s Press for the advance copy.

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