Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book Reviews: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Taking a break from Giving Plot to the Plotless to write a review of a book I just read :)

At this point, I might be the last person on earth to read Rainbow Rowell’s FANGIRL. Or at least the last person on my twitter feed. Which is kind of like the world. But I’m actually kind of glad I waited to read it. If I had read FANGIRL this summer or before then, it wouldn’t be as personal to me as it is now.

As I write this, I’m a few days away from the end of the winter break of my first year at college. So, right on level with Cath halfway through the book. I get Cath. A lot. Even though my social anxieties are not as prevalent as hers, I’m an introverted girl with a tendency to avoid social situations with strangers. And I most often retreat to my writing when I need to be alone. College was a potentially disastrous situation for me. College was a potentially disastrous situation for Cath too, and almost was. But watching her struggle through the mire of unfamiliar social situations in a scary new place, while dealing with problems at home, was kind of inspiring.

That’s not to say I didn’t get frustrated with Cath. I did sometimes. But it’s not because I thought she was being unjustified or stupid. I just saw her making mistakes I’d been tempted to make or HAD made in the past. It was a good kind of frustrated. The kind of frustrated that made me want to see the character succeed even more. And I got frustrated with ALL of the characters at one time or another. At Wren for barreling down a road to alcoholism without much of a thought. At their mom for being so terribly impersonal and selfish. At Nick for thinking only of himself and his success. At Levi for… okay I never really got frustrated with Levi. I love Levi. Where the heck is my Levi? I want one too!
The point is, all of the characters are frustrating but relatable. It’s easy to see where all of them come from. You can see their perspective. You can see the reason for their actions. Because they are HUMAN beings. Not role models. Not plastic, perfect characters. Human beings who make mistakes like we all do.

I also appreciate the nods to fanfiction culture. Because I was—and still am—very much involved in fanfiction though I’ve dropped off the map a bit. In fact I went through Cath’s dilemma of not being able to write and finish anything original. Except for in my 8th grade through 10th grade years. I was younger and fighting to finish a novel but I couldn’t. The first stuff I finished was on my fanfiction profile. Heck, I finished a fanfiction trilogy before I finished my first novel because I just… had a greater passion for the characters and plot. I hadn’t discovered the joy of creating a world that held my attention for 90,000 words of writing. I fortunately, like Cath, was able to find my muse and I’ve been able to finish several books now.

But I still have a love for fanfiction. I will defend the culture and merit of fanfiction writing until the day I die because I think it helped me hone and vastly improve my writing skills over the years. Some say you have to write a million words before you become a great writer. I don’t know if I believe that, but I wrote 800,000 words alone on fanfiction. So by god if I’m going to discount its value. All I have to do is read the stuff I wrote in middle school and the stuff I’m writing now to see the difference.
Of course, defending the merits of fanfiction is for another time. I adore this book. I love the prose, the exploration of fanfiction culture, the non-antagonistic acknowledgement of social anxieties, the human characters, the romance, everything about Levi, and every little detail in between. Go buy it and if you have an introverted college student in the family who sounds like a fangirl or fanboy, recommend this to them.

But let’s face it. Since I’m the last person in the world/ my twitter feed to read this book… you probably already have.

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