by Rainbow Rowell
Read: September 6 - 7, 2013
Published: September 10, 2013 by St. Martin's Press
Source: ARC from BEA **THANK YOU St. Martins**
Category: Contemporary, Coming of Age, College Years, Romance, YA/NA
Find: Goodreads | Amazon
Official Summary: A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .
But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
I realize it's presumptuous of me to address you by your first name, but I know you know how awesome it is, and I'm not sure when I'll be able to write a letter to someone with that name ever again. Also you did sign your first name in my book, and I've decided that means we must be on a first named basis indefinitely.
I recently read Fangirl and really have no idea where to begin with a review, so I decided to write you a thank you letter instead.
Thank you for getting that new things are hard, and that college is confusing. Thank you for remembering that we're all little awkward, insecure and a mess on the inside. Thank you for understanding that we don't all go to college and automatically become drunk college girls. I certainly didn't, and I'm thankful that Cath didn't either. Thanks for your witty dialogue, which had me giggling frequently. I'm pretty sure you and Cath share that ability.
Thank you for sending Cath to college, but still making her family a big part of her life. For realizing that when we move out of the house, we don't stop loving our families, or feeling their influence on our lives. But neither do we all stay the same as we grow. Sometimes the hardest part of getting older is realizing that the people we love have the power to hurt us the most. Thank you for the times Cath held on no matter what, and the times she let go.
Thank you for getting what it means to love stories, and what it means to feel like we own a little piece of the worlds in the books we read. I don't write fanfiction. But as a reader and blogger, I could sympathize with Cath when she missed a day of it, and felt like she was out of rhythm. How hard it could be to balance the life going on around her with the stories in her head and her friends online. Thank you for Cath's realization that it was more important to have people in her life that understood and supported that part of her, than to find someone exactly like her in every way. For those of us who analyze characters, theorize story directions and frequently plan our lives around book release parties, I wanted to say thank you for writing Cath the way you did.
Thank you for him. You made me fall for him big time. I actually wasn't sure where this romance was going for a while. Then I was hopeful about the direction. Then I was angry. Then I was worried that it would all be fixed before I was ready, and before Cath should be ready. But I shouldn't have been worried, because everything worked out better than I could have guessed. Everything that happened with the romance, made the sweetness and swoon all the better. I don't know how you managed it, but wow.
Several characters do things in this book that really made me upset. I'm sure you know what those are. Whenever that happens, I'm always worried that everything will be glossed over later. That I need to prepare myself to get over my ranty feelings before I'm ready, and without all my questions being answered. But you never begrudged Cath the things she thought were big deals, and you allowed her to ask all the little questions that I wanted answered. You never just made something okay that clearly wasn't, just to make the story neater. Thank you for a book filled with humans who make real mistakes, and for showing us that often it's how they handle them in the after that is the truest test of character.
But most of all, thank you for not changing Cath. Although she grows a lot in this book and becomes a much stronger person in the process, what I love most is that at the end of this year of her life, she's still the same nerdy girl that she was at the beginning. She makes friends, finds love, and realizes some important things about he family, along with a lot of other painful, awkward and wonderful moments, but she's still Cath all the way through. She'd still rather read a book than go to a party, and I think that's pretty awesome.
I think what I meant to say is THANK YOU for writing Fangirl.
P.S. Yes - Fangirl was Adult enough for me. It was also YA enough. It's one of those books that's applicable to life and transcends whatever genre it's placed into. I see what you mean by that now.
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone
I loved the way family was incorporated into this book too-I read so many books where the MCs so immediately and easily separate from their families and while that may be true for some, it is so opposite my own experience. I also really appreciated how this book transcended categorization too-it's probably technically NA with its college-age heroine but it could also be YA or Adult or just plain excellent.ReplyDelete
I agree! I think authors like to put characters in college b/c then they can ignore their families, but they never go away and I love how Rowell has made them integral to this book and really who Cath is. Even when you move away from home, you just spent your first 18 years of life with your parents and you can't erase that. YES. I also love that this story is one that feels very universal. Even as an adult I could relate.Delete
I'm so excited for this one and I absolutely LOVE your review, Lauren. It gets to the heart of qualities I look for in novels perfectly - a solid romance, character growth, realistic struggles, emotional connections. I cannot wait to meet Cath and I'm thrilled by the prospect that this novel actually explores college life in a realistic manner, quite unlike the masses of New Adult Fiction. Fantastic review/letter, my friend - I think this is one of my favorites of yours!(:ReplyDelete
I hope you love this book, K! This is really a GOOD and realistic New Adult read. It doesn't deal with the story in the same way as the others I've read - especially families and even the romance. I kept thinking that Cath would go from being so introverted to the life of the party, which is the type of huge change that sometimes happens in NA, but this book had a great continuity of character to it. I know E&P wasn't a huge hit for you, but I'm really hoping that this one is a much better fit!Delete
I love how you did this letter! You touched on so many points I was so thankful for too, like how Cath remains herself and how wonderful it was to have her family such a strong force even with her being at college. :)ReplyDelete
Thanks, Sara. Both the points you mentioned hit me too. They shouldn't be unique, but I don't seen family being brought up a lot in NA books. At least as a present element in the story. And usually it seems like the introverted girls go through a giant change, but I love that Cath is always going to be the way she is and she grows to be okay with that.Delete
Arrrgh, I need to get off my butt and read RR! This one arrived a few weeks ago but this month is just jam-packed. Seeing all these raves for this book makes me wish I had a Wendy clone so I had the time to read this immediately.ReplyDelete
Wendy @ The Midnight Garden
Have you not read anything by RR, yet? You MUST! This one is the strongest and my favorite, but I hope you're able to connect to her stories. I wish I had a clone too, or could read by osmosis. I'd get so much more done! I understand your predicament tho.Delete
It's such a rare thing to read a book where the MC experiences such magnificent growth and to not have that growth change the core of who they really are. All too often we see MC's changing themselves to be this newer, bigger, better person and, in doing so, they become mere shells of their former selves. It's a beautiful thing to see that an author and a book gets that you don't have to change who you are to still experience CHANGE. And honestly, I WANT to read a book that's got a good balance of the Y and the A and it sounds like this one has an equal amount of both.ReplyDelete
If I wasn't already excited to read this book before reading your lovely letter (and I was), I certainly am now. It was touching, heartfelt and beautiful --- just as I am sure this book will be. So yeah. Thank YOU for giving me some more motivation to pick this one up off the ol' shelf!
I agree, Nikki! I was so impressed that Cath became so much stronger and more confident without sacrificing the core of who she was. I kept expecting her to change into a party girl, because that's some reason what you're supposed to do in college? But her story doesn't go as I expected, which I love so much. This IS a great balance of genres, and so applicable that it doesn't matter. I hope you connect to this story when you find a chance to read it!Delete
LOVE! LOVE! LOVE this letter, Lauren! I had no idea Rowell had a new title coming out until very recently. I'm still debating whether I should check out Eleanor and Park, but I think I'd like to go with Fangirl first. The college experience done right - or done realistically is calling to me! The influence of family in connection to growing up is especially nice to hear about. I'm glad Rowell incorporates such a great support system for Cath - even if family can be difficult to deal with at times. And the protagonist displays growth and finds love all while staying true to herself? Oh, I do look forward to this one! :)ReplyDelete
I hope you love this book as much as I did, Marlene! FANGIRL is my favorite of Rowell's books, but they are all wonderful. But YES, I think this is a realistic portrayal of college. Or at least it felt real for this girl. I know some people go off to college and go a little wild, but not everyone does. And after living with your family for 18 years, they don't just go away when you leave home. I think the thing is that this book shouldn't feel so unique, but it does because few explore these themes the way that Rowell wrote them. Plus the reading/writing themes are so much fun.Delete
LOL! I love that author signature!! This book is definitely adult enough and Rainbow definitely deserves a thank you letter. Love your TY letter.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Mary. Sounds like you loved this book too. It's really one of my favorites of the year.Delete
Oh Lauren your not just about made me tear up. I have yet to read Fangirl and you know from our twitter conversations i'm practically counting down the minutes this book comes out but your thank you letter has me even mroe excited for this book (i didn't think it was possible) Thank you Lauren.ReplyDelete
Lily @ Lilysbookblog
I hope you love this book, Lily! It starts a little slowly and Cath's awkwardness can be painful. But her experiences are also very relatable and I had such a wonderful experience reading her story.Delete
I just loved this book so much. Great review :)ReplyDelete
Thanks, Jen! It is a winner for sure.Delete
Is it presumptuous to call an author by her first name o.O? I think you're good especially if she signed with Rainbow...ReplyDelete
Oh yes. The drunk college girl thing. I didn't become one either, though I did find the portrayal of Courtney a tad troublesome. Anyway, YES to what you said. Witty dialogue. Yes. so much.
Yes. A lot of NA and YA books deemphasize family, especially NA as they say when you go to college, you're further from home and that prompts self growth etc. etc.. But that doesn't give an excuse to forget your family, even if you're learning for yourself. Also --> "Sometimes the hardest part of getting older is realizing that the people we love have the power to hurt us the most." Yes. God yes.
Lauren, this is such a beautiful review. I hope you sent this to Rainbow!
I'm not a fanfic writer either, but I thought that portrayal was just beautifully done. "Thank you for Cath's realization that it was more important to have people in her life that understood and supported that part of her, than to find someone exactly like her in every way." <-- Yes. yes. yes. So much yes. Do you ever think there's too much of an emphasis in some YA about "fixing" people? Ugh.
"Whenever that happens, I'm always worried that everything will be glossed over later. That I need to prepare myself to get over my ranty feelings before I'm ready, and without all my questions being answered... You never just made something okay that clearly wasn't, just to make the story neater. Thank you for a book filled with humans who make real mistakes, and for showing us that often it's how they handle them in the after that is the truest test of character." <-- AGREED. Every last bit of it. It's like how sometimes you'll read discussion posts on how authors should kill off characters, but I'm always a tad wary of that because will there be enough grief? Will the reactions fit to what's happened? Or will you start ranting on how X and X should have been feeling this, etc.?
"But most of all, thank you for not changing Cath." <-- YES!!!!! That too. It's quite amazing that she'd written a book so filled with character growth that did not essentially change who Cath was at heart. So wonderful and so unique.
How nice that you have a signed copy and got to talk to Rainbow too :).
I never know how informal I should be with authors. The internet makes them so accessible, but I don't want to over do it with how personal I am. It's an ongoing debate in my head.Delete
Thank you for all your thoughtful words - YES I did tweet this to Rainbow and she responded. She is so personable. When I met her at BEA I spoke to her for less than a minute - in a line with 100 other people waiting for her book - and she took time to chat and then wrote something in my book based on our discussion. She is a true observer and I can see that coming out in her stories. She also came across as very confident and open, so I don't know how she manages to write awkward so well.
1) I agree, NA and sometimes YA tries to ignore the family. Or at least they don't make them as present a force as they should be. Even if you go away to college, you just spent 18 years of your life living with your family and that doesn't just disappear. Even Wren's behavior was a reaction to that.
2) I love how much camaraderie Cath found online writing fan-fiction. She definitely captured a lot of why I love to blog. But also how much fun it is to discuss and analyze the stories we read. LOVE how all of this was done.
3) YES. I think we do often start to think about how things "should" happen in certain situations. Or we expect events to follow a certain order because that's how we usually read it. But in FANGIRL I was able to live this story along with Cath, and her reactions felt so true to her character, that I stopped worrying and questioning what she was going to do next.
4) One of my favorite things about this story is how Cath was able to grow and become a much stronger individual without sacrificing the core of who she was. I kept expecting her growth to involve her trying out partying and living the "college life." But this felt so much more true to her. I also love the contrast that Cath thinks Wren has it all together b/c she's able to embrace live as a college student. But as the story moves on you realize the perspective is backwards and it is Cath who's better adjusted.
THIS. This is my favorite review you have EVER written, Lauren. Ever. And seeing how I was like follower #2, I am pretty sure I have read them all. This is a BEAUTIFUL, totally fitting review for such a wonderful book! You did tweet this to Rainbow right? (I call her that too, even though I've never met her, I get the distinct impression that she wouldn't mind:)She would love this review/letter:)ReplyDelete
I love what you said about letting Cath be Cath--and what you said about leaving our parents but them never leaving us. And I love your comments on HIM.:)
You hit the nail on the head with this letter, you echoed everything I felt too and you did it so eloquently. Well done :)
Wow. Thank you so much, Heather. And, yes. I think you were one of the first two people who ever read my blog :). HA.Delete
I DID tweet this to Rainbow and she wrote back a really nice message. As I said above to Christina, in person and online she is incredibly personable and open. When I met her at BEA I spoke to her for less than a minute - in a line with 100 other people waiting for her book - and she took time to chat and then wrote something in my book based on our discussion. She is a true observer and I can see that coming out in her stories. She also came across as very confident, so I don't know how she manages to write awkward so well. BUt I think that's one reason why I was able to connect with Cath. I'm not a big partier, but I'm not as introverted either. However, I think we all have a little awkward, messiness inside of us.
Oh HIM. SA-WOON. I wish I could have said more but seriously, I was blown away by how perfect that storyline was. Even though I was incredibly worried about it at first.
Thanks for the discussion after I read this book. It helped me to think through my response to it and write this letter. I wish Ic could write more of these, but they don't come when I force them.
Thanks, Aman! I hope you end up loving this story as much as I did. I think you will be able to relate to Cath's love of words, and as a blogger, you'll be able to understand her struggle with balancing the online part of her life with everything else. Or at least I did! I know some people party in college, but I didn't either! And I'm glad that Cath's growth didn't involve becoming that type of person, because I don't think it would have made sense for her. I kept expecting it to happen, but she stays true to herself while becoming a much stronger and more confident character by the end. It's really wonderful to read about.ReplyDelete
I. LOVE. THIS. REVIEW. I don't think I could have said it better. Your review is perfection. I shouldn't have read this before I wrote my own review. Now nothing I say will mean as much. :(ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Jen. That is so sweet of you. I'm sure you're review will be wonderful though.Delete
Aww this is such a cute way to write a review! I also love stories that really do transcend age/generational/genre gaps. That's a sign of good writing and good characterization, in my opinion. That's wonderful that you related to Cath so well - I have the feeling that I will as well. It sounds like Rowell has certainly written a realistic and relatable portrayal of the college experience, and that's certainly a void that needs to be filled in fiction. Or at least I haven't read many great college-centered books. Lovely review, Lauren!ReplyDelete
This book definitely felt more real than many of the college age books I've read before. I hope you're able to connect with it as much as I did!Delete
What did you make of the ending - with Cath and his "two weeks left before summer" mentality? (He says something along the lines of letting him be there for her for the next two weeks, and she says fourteen days left with him and until this year of her life is over.)
I know they conceded that their summer apart wouldn't be the same (obviously) as their life on college campus, but is it implying that they might not work?
I took that statement as "14 days until summer and we have to be long distance until school starts again." I know somewhere earlier Cath worries about that and Levi says they'll make it work. I just think that the end of a college year always feels final like that, with the summer being another entity entirely. I definitely didn't get a sense that they were breaking up any time soon - and hopefully not ever!
Oh. My. Gosh. YES. Yes yes yes to this letter!! Omg Lauren this letter is amazing and perfectly sums up my feelings for this book. Like creepily so. So much I am reading this letter and just nodding my head because you said EVERYTHING I was feeling.ReplyDelete
"Thank you for getting what it means to love stories, and what it means to feel like we own a little piece of the worlds in the books we read. I don't write fanfiction. But as a reader and blogger, I could sympathize with Cath when she missed a day of it, and felt like she was out of rhythm."--->THIS! YES!
Also, loved how Rainbow didn't change Cath. She was insecure yet so secure with herself. She knows who she is and doesn't change for anybody. I love love loved her.
"Thank you for understanding that we don't all go to to college and automatically become drunk college girls."ReplyDelete
I agree with you for all of these reasons. Fangirl was kind of reflective of my own emotional experience in the first year of college, and I felt so thankful to read something like that. And yes for the witty! I was surprised by how much I was laughing.
Awesome review! I want moreeee Rainbow!
"Thank you for sending Cath to college, but still making her family a big part of her life. For realizing that when we move out of the house, we don't stop loving our families, or feeling their influence on our lives. But neither do we all stay the same as we grow." <--- Oh wow, L. I already wanted to read this but this just hit me so perfectly. Love this whole letter - it felt so personal and unique and yet I also nodded along thinking about how I couldn't wait to find this all out for myself. Time to read it! PLUS thanks to the Summer Series Challenge I totally have a pretty, shiny copy on my shelves :) XOXOReplyDelete
I really like this author. Fangirl is a great read! I liked the interjection of fan fiction & its relevance to the budding romance.ReplyDelete
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Such a unique way to post a review. Love the review and of course the book!ReplyDelete