Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Genre: YA, contemporary, romance
Published on September 10, 2013
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 438
Read From: 4. 3.14 - 4.5.14

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 go them through their mother leaving. 
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fanfiction, 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 fanfiction 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? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I admit that the cover art is kinda cute. It's what caught my attention in the first place. Yes, it's clearly a chick-lit. But every time I saw this book, I kept stopping and looking at it. I even almost bought it. But I heeded my advice and borrowed it from the library. Boy, am I glad I did. Note to self: cover art is not a good enough reason to buy a book. Even if that cover art makes you stop every time you see it.

Characters: I desperately wanted to like and feel bad for Cath. She very obviously suffered from severe social anxiety, and I can totally relate. But Cath is a fangirl - worse, she is the sort of fangirl that I abhor. Caution: I am about to insult and tick off a lot of fangirls. I don't care if you take this personally. Cath is the sort of girl who gives "fangirl" a bad name. I don't consider myself a fangirl because of what her type have turned "fangirls" into. Cath is the sort of fangirl who takes male protagonists who have a close camaraderie relationship - and makes them gay. She's the sort of fangirl who is responsible for Johnlock. She is the sort of fangirl who is the reason I can't pin pictures of John and Sherlock on Pinterest without someone coming on and making some idiotic and rage-inducing comment about them being lovers. She's the sort of fangirl that has made me hate fanfiction and all it stands for. She is the sort of fangirl that makes us normal fangirls scream and say, "No! We are not fangirls! We are normal! We would be respectful and calm if we got to meet our favorite characters - and actors who have played them - simply so we won't be mistaken for fangirls!" In short, I could not like Cath because of everything she stood for. You might be thinking that I am taking this way too seriously. Maybe I am. But I am a Sherlockian and I have seen the Sherlockian community suffer at the hands of such fangirls. I have to explain to the casual person that being a Sherlockian does not mean I'm part of the weird fandom that has cast Sherlock and John in an odiously creepy light! The term Sherlockian has been hijacked by these fangirls and it makes me apocalyptically cross! Sod off, fangirls - this is my territory! Stop ruining it for us normal people!

This will probably be useful :P

Setting these things aside, Cath is also just not all that likable. I understand her social anxiety, but she also spends a lot of time whining. I have social anxiety, and I don't whine. Her roommate Reagan was just rude, Cath's sister Wren was a bitch, Nick was a user, and Levi . . . . I wanted to like Levi. I did like Levi - mostly because I was desperate. For the most part, he was funny and adorable and the sort of guy friend who can always make you feel relaxed and better. But . . . Well, I'll cover the rest in the romance section.

The Romance:

Levi licked her mouth like he was trying to get the last bit of jam off the back of her throat. (pg. 397) 

Just . . . ew! Just ew!!! No, no, no - that is so many levels of wrong. Really?! Did you have to drag jam into this?!

Love Colin's face ;)

Levi's slept around. Yes, I am going to hold this against him. No, I don't care if you think I'm being too judgmental. I have a thing about morality and personal pride and keeping your bloody trousers on and being responsible! I'm so sick of reading books that have guy characters who have slept with their girlfriends, and I'm so sick of reading books where the girl acts like her virginity is something to be embarrassed about. And that is what Levi and Cath's romance boils down to. Levi has experience; Cath doesn't. Cath is embarrassed; Levi doesn't mind - he'll show her how. Because he's decent that way (can you hear my eyes rolling?) And because this is chick-lit, the romance takes up 95% of the book. Perhaps more than that.

A clue no

Plot: Plot? What plot? Cath and Wren go to college, Wren becomes a jerk who abandons her sister and gets drunk all the time. Cath obsesses over Simon Snow and writes fanfiction when she should be writing papers for her classes. Periodically, their lives are interrupted by emotional breakdowns from their dad or their estranged mother trying to get back into their lives, and Cath being a brat about it. Don't get me wrong - I understand why Cath didn't want to have anything to do with her mom. But she still seemed like a brat. This sort of plot goes on for . . . . 433 pages, with smatterings of Cath's fanfiction in between. Oh my gosh, the fanfiction . . . . The only reason I preferred the fanfiction bits was because it was a break from the constant barrage of profanity. But it, too, came with its own problems (more on that later). There was literally no point to this book. Except to read about Cath's difficult integration into the college life, and how Cath couldn't figure out that Levi liked her (when it was so glaringly obvious). The whole concept of Simon Snow was silly. I'm not a Harry Potter fan, but I can understand why this book irritated a lot of them. Simon Snow is supposed to be Harry Potter, but not. It's supposed to be clever little "bow" to Harry Potter. This, of course, makes no sense, since Fangirl takes place in our world, where Harry Potter, in fact, exists. I suppose maybe the Author couldn't actually use Harry Potter for copyright reasons. But how then was she able to create the Simon Snow world - which is so obviously supposed to be Harry Potter?!

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. That sampler quote is only the beginning. Here are some more.

He practically didn't have a top lip, just a smear of red. (pg. 83)

His mouth was small, but bowed. Like a doll's. She wondered if he had trouble opening it wide enough to eat apples. (pg. 137) 

Umm, do we care?!

It was hard to make eye contact with Nick - his eyes were almost buried under his eyebrows; you had to dig into his face. (pg. 130) 


Then, if he decided to laugh, his shoulders would start shaking and his eyebrows would pull up in the middle - Levi's eyebrows were pornographic. (pg. 302) 

You know, there's a way to do funny similes. These - especially that last one - are just wrong. Bad writing. I don't know what kind of emotion the Author is trying to go for, but I wasn't feeling it. I was just grossed and creeped out. Pornographic eyebrows?! Seriously, people?!

Content: 46 f-words, 20 s-words, 6 g--damns. There was no letup. Oh yes, and in Cath's fanfiction of Simon Snow, Simon and his sworn enemy - who is another guy named Baz (. . . .) - are lovers. They're gay. Yes. Cath decided to take someone else's characters - in this case, a fictional writer, but this happens in reality - and made them gay. I am not okay with fans taking someone else's characters and doing what they want with them - especially this. That is crossing a line that no Reader is allowed to cross.

Conclusion: Now, one might expect Cath to maybe learn at the end of the book that she doesn't need Simon Snow. She can let go of the fandom and live a normal life; she can remember it with fondness as something she had as a tween, and move on. Spoiler: the ending is as pointless as the beginning and the middle. Cath keeps her fandom, and as far as we Readers know, she never abandons it. I can say with compete conviction that I don't like chick-lit. And I now know why! Apart from the fact that it's a bunch of sappy nonsense, the guys have always slept with a girl at some point, and the girl is always ashamed of her virginity. Yes, one can encounter this theme in dystopian, fantasy, time travel, science fiction - any of them. But it is most prominent in chick-lit and contemporary. So guess what, people: you can't tell me that I simply haven't tried chick-lit, so how can I know I don't like it. I've read a John Green book - thee John Green book, - I've read My Invisible Boyfriend, and I've read a Rainbow Rowell book. I don't need to try Sarah Dessen to know I dislike chick-lit. And I still dislike fangirls.

Recommended Audience: Chick-read, nineteen-and-up, fangirls and fans of chick-lit.


  1. Wow, this sounds just horrible. And yeah, the only reason those smilies are funny is because they are so utterly ridiculous. "Pornographic eyebrows" O-KAY that's definitely a new one on me. LOVE the buttons you chose, Especially Colin ;) Unfortunately it's going to be a while before I eat jam again I think... Yeah, so glad I trusted my instinct and didn't pick up this book. I think I would have barfed or destroyed it and would have gladly paid the library the money for doing so :P It's just sad that this book pretends to represent fans. Just another mark against those still actually true. And seriously, if I was J K Rowling I would be seriously ticked off at "Simon Snow" I would have ruined Ms Rowell.

    1. I don't even know what to picture; what does a pornographic eyebrow look like?! What other emotion am I supposed to get from such a description other than confusing and being disturbed? Oh, I know; I haven't been able to look at jam for a while. Or peanut butter, for that matter . . . . I should have read ELEANOR & PARK - it's significantly shorter. ;) I would be ticked, too. I don't know how it isn't considered plagiarism.

  2. Oh wow. I almost picked this book up the other day but after reading this review I'm really glad I didn't. The whole fangirl thing bugs me too. I almost didn't watch Sherlock because of it and don't even get me started on the screaming girls who think they're Doctor Who fans. Between that, the jam and the pornographic eyebrows I think I'll give this one a miss!

    1. The screaming fangirls put me off of DOCTOR WHO for a long time as well. ;) Do the Sherlockian community a favor and whenever you recommend SHERLOCK to people - or you hear people talking about how the fandom is weird - tell them to please not judge the show or Sherlockians by the fangirls. :) Sherlock Holmes is brilliant, the show is brilliant, and the true fans are not like "them."

  3. I love your reviews! Thanks for the warning, because I considered reading this, but it sounds like one of those books I tend to avoid.

    1. I would listen to your inner voice and continue to avoid it. ;)

  4. ...I was considering reading this one so I could see what the uproar over Rainbow Rowell was all about. Now? Yeah, no. I don't think I'll be reading this one. Nice gif/graphic choices!

    And as far as Sarah Dessen, my sister loved those as a teen and begged me to read a few. I wasn't a big fan of "This Lullaby," but I enjoyed "The Truth About Forever" if you ever want to give that one a go.

    1. I don't get why everyone is all "oh my gosh" about Rainbow Rowell. Her style isn't even that good.

      What was it about THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER that made it different?

    2. It's been a while since I last read it, but from what I remember, unlike most chick lit, the romance is not the main focus, and it slowly grows from friendship. The story focuses on all the relationships in Macy's life, including her mother, sister, crazy new coworkers and the boy. It chronicles her journey through the grief of losing her father, but it never feels overly bogged down or depressing. It's more of a "slowly opening up to the world again" tale, more about regaining her footing, figuring out who she wants to be and what she wants in life. If that makes sense?

    3. I might do that sometime, then. I can like contemporary if romance isn't the main focus.

  5. It makes me sad that you seem so against homosexuality and sexual activity. I understand your hatred of fangirls, despite disagreeing with you, but it seems like your main issue with them is their acceptance of homosexuality. Being gay is not "creepy" and being deeply invested in a fandom is not not "normal." Sometimes it's the only thing people have to hold on to. And there is no shame, for men or women, in being sexually active.

    It's okay for you to feel as you do about these things, but it is not okay for you to project your opinions onto other people because it is oppressive of lgbtqa members and slut-shames people who have different opinions than you about sexual activity. I don't blame you for disliking this book, especially given that it conflicts with many of your opinions, but it would be nice if you could avoid bashing certain groups of people even though you disagree with them.

    1. Dear Anonymous--

      Firstly, this is not about how I "feel." This is about how I think. Secondly, this is my blog; I can post whatever thoughts I have. No one is obligated to read it, and no one is obligated to like or care about what I have to say. Thirdly, it is my strong opinion that there is something VERY wrong indeed about people sleeping around with no commitment. As reality has proven - and the state of society - no good has ever come of it. Fourthly, my biggest problem with fangirls, actually, is that they continuously destroy, misrepresent, and defame other people's stories and characters. That is just plain disrespectful. Fifthly, they are oppressive of fans who DON'T approve of homosexuality. They say that you either accept or you are judgmental, bigoted, and close-minded. They, like you, also say that it's fine for people like me to have our opinions - as long as we keep it to ourselves. But if we want them to keep their opinions to themselves, well, we're just not tolerant. Yes, I am well within my rights to express my opinions. Thank you "so much" for giving me your "permission" to do so. Sixthly, I am a reviewer. A BOOK reviewer, I might add. I offer up my opinions on BOOKS! FANGIRL is a BOOK! And if I offered up a review that did not express my EXACT opinion on it, I would be disgracing my name as a reviewer and letting down those people who take value from my honest and full opinions. On the topic of bashing certain groups of people simply because I don't agree with them, that is exactly what you - and fangirls - do to NORMAL people like me, who have morals and standards and don't appreciate the degradation of favorite characters and stories.

      And by the way, people like you make it even more rewarding to express my politically incorrect (but morally honest) opinions in so uncensored and unbridled a manner. Criticize me for voicing what I believe in and not being ashamed of it, and I am most certainly NOT going to shut up. You accuse me of slut-shaming, but you and others like you prude-shame people like me all the time. You can't have a double standard.

      But, I must thank you, dear Anonymous person. You just made my night. I LOVE it when people try to shame me into being politically correct and accepting of ideas and behaviors that go against what I believe.

    2. I would add something to this, but Mara, you said everything that needed to be said. So dear Anonymous remember that being offended by people being offended is just an idiotic circle of lunacy. And there are actually such things as black and white and morally wrong too, by the way. And yes, loving a fandom and characters is perfectly all right. Misrepresenting them into something they clearly aren't and never would be is not love, it is character abuse, and that I cannot abide. So if you, for example, want to make Sherlock and John gay, or even more disgusting, Thor and Loki who are for all intents and purposes BROTHERS, then how can you claim to really love those characters when they would be horrified by those implications?

    3. Ditto, Hazel. If one were a real fan, one would be respectful of the characters and stories one professes to being a fan of.


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