Cath and Wren are identical twins and starting college together. Then Wren tells Cath that they shouldn’t room together, which spins Cath’s world into chaos. Suddenly, she has to face the anxieties of starting at school alone, from trying to find the dining hall (and knowing how to navigate all the untold rules within) to dealing with her aggressive roommate and her roommate’s weird boyfriend. On top of this, Cath’s Simon Snow fanfiction has become so incredibly popular that she is torn between posting it regularly and keeping up with her schoolwork. Plus, her dad is bipolar and isn’t exactly up to taking care of himself now that Cath and Wren are gone. Plus, her ten-years-estranged mother is trying to waltz back into her life. Plus, her fiction writing teacher seems to think that fanfiction – Cath’s favorite form of writing – isn’t really writing at all. And so on.
So…I first heard of Rainbow Rowell last summer when everyone and their mother started reading Eleanor & Park. The book was not at all interesting to me, so I ignored the hype. Then came NaNoWriMo, and Rowell wrote a pep talk about her experience with NaNo in 2011, when she wrote Fangirl. Fangirl did seem interesting to me, and so when I recently saw an audio version on my library’s shelf, I decided to give it a try.
Ha. I listened to the first tiny bit, maybe 15 mins or so, just to test the book, and decided I liked it. Then, yesterday, I listened to the next little bit of it when I ran at Comanche. Then, today, I came down with a bad cold – and spent the entire rest of the day listening to this book until every word was done. It was that good.
I loved just about every part of this book! I loved that Cath never gave up on her fanfiction despite what her teacher said. I love that she never rekindled a relationship with her mother, but DID fix up the relationship with her sister. I love that bad things happened, and that nothing was easy, even as the book was hopeful and light. I love that it made me laugh. I love Cath’s love interest, Levi, who was not at all the typical YA boyfriend type. I love that Cath got revenge on the guy who stole their co-authored story.
The only thing I didn’t love was that the end seemed to push on too long. After everything was pretty much worked out, there were a few scenes of “extra drama” that seemed like they needed to be cut. Arguments between Cath and Levi that felt like plot points which ought to have been dealt with throughout the book, rather than getting tagged on at the end. That sort of thing. Otherwise, though, the book was great.
Performance: The audio performance was likewise fantastic. When I first started listening, I wasn’t sure about it – Simon Snow was so obviously stand-in for Harry Potter that I was a bit put off with all the pre-chapter sections reading from it, and later from fanfiction – but I ended up enjoying it. I loved that Rowell was able to make the fanfic sections sound different in writing style from the Simon Snow bits, and both different from her own writing. That takes talent, and the two narrators (Rebecca Lowman and Maxwell Caulfield) did a fantastic job setting these all apart just with the way they spoke. It was great. The sort of audiobook I’d love to own.