Summary: Cath is not your typical university freshman. While everyone is out having a good time, partying, dancing and getting drunk, Cath is content with staying in her dorm writing fanfiction. For years, Cath and her sister, Wren, wrote dozens, if not hundreds, of stories about Simon Snow and are even well known in the fanfic world. As the two approach their freshman year, Wren dropped news that she will not be living with her sister. Thrust in a world foreign to her, and without the comfort of her sister’s shadow, Cath must come to terms with the changes around her or succumb further into the fantasy world that is slowly taking over her life.
Review: YA Contemporary is not a genre that I’m usually drawn to. It’s not my least favorite, but I probably only own a handful of such books. The main reason I picked this book was because of the hype in both goodreads and youtube. So, with all the talk about such a great read, I just had to pick it up and find out for myself. As I flip through the book, page after page, all I kept thinking about was “It’s going to get better, it has to!” Eventually, as I got to the last page all I felt was disappointment. I cannot phantom why everyone made such a big deal about this book. Its a very typical “growing of age” book and besides the fanfic aspect, it really wasn’t that original. I understand this genre is not my forte, but even I have read amazing YA contemporary books. Don’t get me wrong, Rainbow Rowell can write very well and she does so with fluidity. I gave her 5 star on her writing style and character development, but the problem is that’s really all I liked about the book.
As I said previously, Rowell can write and write she does. As much as I enjoyed her style I felt that Fangirl went on far too long. There were unnecessary parts in the book, example, Cath reading Levi one of her short stories. I understand that many enjoyed that part of the book, but I wish she just added that as an appendix. At least she could have given people a choice. Now, if the actual short story was an integral part of the book then that’s understandable, but to those who have read it, we all know it wasn’t. Just like the length of the book, I just couldn’t handle Cath. I thought as I get further absorbed in the book I will eventually love her, or at least like her, unfortunately that wasn’t the case here. Although she does get less annoying, I still can’t get past her whinny nature. I understand social anxiety and an introvert personality, but I think the way Cath was portrayed was over the top. I had such qualities entering University for the first time, but I didn’t deliberately push people away, especially those who want to befriend me. For the first half of the book, as she wallow in self-pity on the loss of her sister’s attention, I felt like I was reading a middle grade book, who’s character is entering middle school and has to go through this process of growing up. I just couldn’t deal or connect to Cath’s level and that for me is an important part in loving a protagonist. I do have to say that Cath becomes a more tolerable protagonists in the end, we see her grow from a child-like teenager to a more independent person.
The actual saving grace for me with this book is Levi. I totally enjoyed his character and although we really don’t see an internal character growth from him, we do get to see that he’s got his sh*t together. Anyone who is as dedicated to listening to lectures over and over again shows that he is trying to achieve more for himself. Levi is just the best through and through. Maybe some will find his sunny personality exhausting and annoying, but for me its different. Where we are all being bombarded with brooding and dark male characters in many other books, Levi is a breath of fresh air! His mannerism almost reminds me of Peeta from The Hunger Games. Totally different setting, but I feel if Peeta and Levi ever met each other in normal circumstances, they would love each other, not in a Simon and Bass context. Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was all the different relationships that Rowell included. We have parent relationship, sibling relationship, parent hate relationship, best friends relationship, etc. you get the drift. Rowell does a really good job in writing and developing each relationship. I especially enjoy the development in the friendship between Reagan and Cath. I love how they barely tolerated each other, and then they grew to tolerate each other and eventually grew to tolerate each other’s company. I just found their relationship so hilarious and uncommon, since they are polar opposite of each other. It also doesn’t hurt the fact that I love Reagan’s character.
I understand that many will totally hate me for this review, since a lot of readers love this book, unfortunately its just not cut out for me. Although there are aspects to the book that I love, I feel that my dislikes outweighs the likes, so I probably won’t buy a copy of this for myself since I won’t have the urge to re-read it. Although I will miss Levi and Reagan, I just don’t have the energy to read Cath and Wren all over again. Even if this book left me with bitter disappointment, I won’t swear off Rainbow Rowell’s books altogether. I did enjoy her way of writing, so I might eventually, in the future, read her other works.
Ending: Cath and Wren had a wonderful relationship growing up, but eventually one needed to move on. I felt that Wren’s decision to separate herself from her sister was a good idea. Each needed to find themselves and who they really are as an individual. I just don’t think she needed to be self destructive about it. While reading all of Wren’s shenanigans, I already felt that she was heading on her path to destruction, I actually half expected her to die in the book. I just don’t understand the rebellion of Wren. From what I gathered in the book Wren and Cath had a free childhood. They were able to party with their friends, have slumber parties and even date and have boyfriends. At first i thought it was an outcome of their mom’s abandonment, but she accepted her mom’s olive branch! If her actions was to “separate” herself from her sister, then the actions itself is a bit dumb. We really don’t get an explanation on her actions, but Wren’s ending was acceptable. After being admitted to the hospital for over drinking, it was a wake-up call for a future she wouldn’t want to have a part of.
Cath eventually found her own self. She still loves fanfic and she still loves Simon Snow, but at least by the end of the book she has learned to let people through. Cath already was true to herself. Besides the fact that she was more involved in a fantasy world than the reality, she knew who was important to her and who she is as a twin. Although I do hate her whinny personality, I do love how she takes care of the people she loves. I was rooting for her and Levi to get together. Anyone who is willing to walk back and forth from their dorm to the library is worthy of someone’s heart and I think that the two will compliment each other. Even if I feel that their relationship is TOO perfect, I can look past that and just like for what it is.
As for the actual ending of the book. I totally hated it. I get that everything is tied up neatly and everyone “lives happily ever after” I just can’t grasp that Rowell ended the book with Levi and Cath in his room reading Simon Snow. It was so uneventful. I feel that Rowell should have just ended at the part where the two sisters finally got hold of the last book of Simon Snow and the four head back to their dorm. That would have left more of an impact, a sense of finality and the renewal of the sister’s bond.