Rating – 3 stars
Remember this moment
Of course you do.
If you were a kid born in the late 80’s or the early 90’s The Harry Potter phenomenon, is no stranger to you. That is not to say you that you are ignorant of it if you are any older or younger than the people born in these 2 decades. But I lay emphasis on these two especially because, it was around this time that TV was becoming such an addiction & internet was fast catching up, so much so they were being preferred to kill time over books, but then something happened and the world was never the same again.
Okay I am not talking about some sort of apocalypse here, I am merely stating the world was introduced to Harry Potter and things were never the same again. J.K. Rowling, a relatively unknown woman became a household name courtesy of her creation and years after the series has wrapped up, the phenomenon isn’t only as strong but it just keeps growing with each new book-lover who enters the world of Hogwarts.
Why am I rambling so much about HP here today? Because Rainbow Rowell’ latest offering Fangirl is a thinly veiled nod to the worldwide phenomenon that is HP & its creator Rowling, as she writes about Simon Snow & his world of mages penned down by an author called Gemma T. Leslie.
Rowell’ protagonist Cath isn’t just a major fan of Simon Snow, she lives & breathes his world practically. Her love of the series inspires her to write multiple canon fanfics about Simon & Baz, on a site called Fanfixx.net, much like the zillions of fics present about Harry & Draco on Fanfiction.net. Reading & writing fanfics is such a craze today, that it was in a way weird and perhaps a bit meta – reading a book that is about a gal who writes fanfics based on a series of books. I hope that was easy to follow lol.
I for the life of me can’t write fanfics, but I do read them sometimes if it catches my fancy, especially when the season finale of a series I follow hangs on a cliffhanger. I like to get a gist of all the numerous takes, other fans like me have. Some are so brilliant, they practically become addicting. So an author acknowledging the love of fandoms in her book was kinda cool.
Cather ‘Cath‘ Avery has grown up in Nebraska with her identical twin sister Wren and was raised single-handedly by their dad after their mother Laura, left them at the age of 8. Since their father suffers from bipolar, Cath is constantly worried about him and kinda wishes she dint have to go away to Lincoln, from her hometown Omaha for college.
In college, Cath & Wren start to drift apart. Wren, being the more outgoing one of the two, wants to explore new horizons, go to all the frat parties and meet new people. While Cath, being the wallflower that she is, prefers to study in her dorm room and write her fanfics. What appears to be perhaps just a phase in their lives, becomes an issue when their mom makes a contact with Wren and tries to do the same with Cath. But it’s not the reunion that it seems to be.
There aren’t huge complains I have about this book but this is the first one – Why Laura wants to know her daughters after walking out on them all those years ago never is explained. It’s not like she is lonely or dying, rather she has remarried, has step-kids and seems to be doing well financially too. Plus she walks out on them once again just as conveniently stating she doesn’t belong. So I really don’t get the point of her making an appearance, even so briefly. The sisters have a fight over their mom, when Wren decides to give Laura a chance and Cath is hellbent against it.
Laura does not seem to resolve any conflicts that have long taken roots among her daughters, rather she causes things to get uglier. Wren gets increasingly into alcohol and Cath takes refuge in her writing and the new friends she makes during the months the sisters stop talking.
Though she still has miles to go, to get out of her shell Cath finds in Levi, her room-mate Reagen’ best friend who is also her ex-boyfriend love.
I loved how Rowell has written Levi, he is a charmer, who respects women a lot. He is sweet, patient and always smiling. Perfect for someone like Cath who has social anxiety, he not only boosts her confidence and is her sounding board but also a fan of Simon Snow and Cath’ fics about him.
The second complaint I have is the lack of a discussion between Cath & Levi, heck even Cath & Reagen would have been okay about Levi’ reading problems. Though shown as a good student, Levi implies time and again to Cath he has problem reading books though not explicitly. He doesn’t use the internet, he cannot read books – there are signs but Cath never gets it or if she does she never has a simple talk about it to Levi or even Reagen.
She knows Levi records all his lectures and listens to them with microphones on in his spare-time. He prefers audio books and movie adaptations to reading the books because he has trouble reading. It’s clear he suffers from Dyslexia or some other form of reading impediment. It seems a waste if an author can raise an issue which needs addressing but fails to justify it completely. Had Rowell had a single scene with a conversation that allows Cath & Levi to discuss this issue I would have loved it.
Cath can talk to Levi about all the things she usually is embarrassed to share, but in this one thing she should have supported Levi. I get it why Levi would not bring this up in a conversation, but Cath could have broached the subject subtly. Rowell made an interesting pair when she wrote about a girl who loves to write and a boy unable to read; too bad she dint utilise her resources, which admittedly had potential.
After Eleanor & Park, this is the second Rowell book I have read, and though it seems her comfort zone is the YA genre, I wouldn’t mind reading something paranormal/fantasy written by her, in fact I would say I enjoyed scenes written about Simon – whether in terms of the fic or the book more than I did Cath & the gang.
Nonetheless fangirl is an enjoyable read though I had anticipated a bit more from Rowell.