Book Reviews

fan·girl*

[fan-gurl] noun. Informal: Often Disparaging.
an obsessive female fan, especially of something technological or from popular culture: a web forum for Star Wars fangirls. *Note: Also the title of a book by Rainbow Rowell.

Fangirl Cover

I wanted to call this post: the miracle of the century. Yes, that is how good this book was to me. Funny thing is I’ve never been a fangirl in my life. Harry Potter didn’t do for me. And while I have a healthy respect for Twilight, I wouldn’t demean myself with an argument about Edward or what’s the other guy’s name? No matter what follows the Stars I won’t be warring or trekking in them. In fact, the closest I’ve ever gotten to fangirling is my obsessive love for storytelling. Good, bad or ugly, it’s all the same to me – a way to improve my own writing.

What makes the story in Fangirl so good is its excellent story development and writing. Each and every t was crossed and i dotted. It was perfection. I can’t really rave about this story as a reader without spoiling the book for you so I’ll rave about it as a writer. The story strengths to be found in Fangirl can be attributed to the three big ones of story telling: character, plot and world. When these come together well we have a winner.

Character

This is our protagonist. We need sympathy for her and consistency from her. I could generally sympathize with Cath from page 1. After 50 pages I was excited Cath had this opportunity to start a new (if scary) life. I was rooting for her. I wanted her to succeed. This kind of sympathy will get a reader over any bumps in character consistency. Fortunately Fangirl didn’t have any problems staying true to character.

Cath is a slow and steady type of girl. She is the opposite of her twin, Wren, who loves to try new things, especially boys, parties and drinking. Cather, no matter how urged on by her roommate, Reagan or Reagan’s much in attendance on and off again boyfriend, Levi, she doesn’t suddenly accept their invitations to join them in their nightly festivities. Consistency and sympathy kept me firmly planted in Cath’s story all the way to the end.

World

In a contemporary story like Fangirl, world building starts with a strong narrative. We know right away what kind of girl Cath is not by what she tells us about herself but by how she describes her world. It’s the words she uses, the details she touches on, how she forms the sentences that explain what is going on from Cath’s perspective. We get Cath while also not struggling with flowery language or big unnecessary words.

A writing rule all newbie writers are told is to show, not tell. Well that’s exactly how Rainbow Rowell chooses to roll. She shows us through Cath’s experiences starting from day one in college all the way through the end of the year, comparing and contrasting her reactions and choices one to another. When we are told details it is all through Cath’s world view, through her opinions of what we are being shown. It’s one of the best coming together of narrative and showing/telling I’ve ever read in a published work. Cath’s strong narrative combined with the best writing techniques make for a compelling world in Fangirl.

Plot

Due to her consistency to character and excellent world building skills the experiences Cath went through came together like a well-built puzzle. She starts off incapable of even leaving her room to find the dorm cafeteria to writing fiction with a guy she likes to almost dropping out of school to her first real relationship with the opposite sex.

Well balanced antagonists came into play keeping the tension we felt for Cath high while giving her many different opportunities to change and grow. For a time her twin, Wren, becomes a thorn in her side, causing Cath to struggle with the changes she doesn’t want to face. There is also a true blue villain who gets his comeuppance at the end of the story giving Cath’s supporters reason to gather around her. When events come together in a true blue evolution of change balanced with the perfect amount of tension from antagonists we’d trail Cath through anything.

Any ONE of these story blocks coming together well and I’d say Fangirl was a winner. All THREE story blocks working together provided a story every writer, reader, and fangirl should partake of. This can be attributed to her strong narrative, her sympathy and consistency of character, the step by step build up to Cath making changes in her life, balanced villains and excellent use of writing techniques. When we are shown more than we are told and what we are told are opinions Cath has about what we’re shown – wow you gotta love Fangirl.

The best thing about Fangirl, though, is it’s knock-down drag-out creativity (spoilers ahead!!!!). I’d never believe I’d adore this book so much about a crazy fanfic loving girl from Nebraska of all places. Who’s name is a derivative of Catherine (Cath, Wren) because her mom was too lazy to come up with a second name for her twins. Okay I knew I’d love the twins angle, but using her twin like an antagonist – brilliant! And who wouldn’t love the quirky and different Reagan and Levi! He’s one of the more creative parts of the book and why I added this little spoilers section. I loved his inability to read and comprehend, what a way to draw a girl out.

What are your favorite books? Are they different from books you’d suggest to friends to read? Does subject matter, matter? Do you like to read about things you know nothing about? How important is a protagonist’s relatability?
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3 thoughts on “fan·girl*”

  1. I’ve heard A LOT of good things about Fangirl and have bought my copy, but have yet to get started on it. Your post just made me eager to dive into it! Contemporary YA novels can get a little repetitive at times, with the whole girl-meets-boy, summer love theme without delving much into the characters’ psyche, so it’s always such a treat when you find a good character-driven story to sink your teeth into. Do you read Sarah Dessen’s books? Her stories always have strong, layered, flawed, REAL characters with relatable problems.

    1. I haven’t read a Sarah Dessen book for years but hers were some of my all time favorites as far as contemporary YA is concerned. I love the one where a girl has to take her siblings to her grandmothers after their mother abandons them.

      I highly recommend Fangirl – go start it now!

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