Let’s see if this popular book is worth the read, shall we?
Long story short: it definitely is.
Now, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a slice of life story. To be honest, I don’t dive into this genre frequently. I prefer the fantasy and extraordinary – novels that take me out of the monotony of life instead of celebrate it. That being said, it was an enjoyable read, cute and relatable in all the ways a coming-of-age-college-romance story should be. I thoroughly enjoyed in, melted in a puddle of sap when I read all the cutesy scenes, and spent a little too long daydreaming about finding a Levi for myself.
The novel itself is about a young girl – Cath – attending her first year of college. She’s there essentially alone, seeing as how her twin sister, Wren, is more caught up in partying and drinking.
You’re right, it is Cath and Wren. Get it?
Anyways, she’s written to be a socially awkward nerd. Cath has trouble making friends, being around people, and she lives mostly on the internet writing fanfictions. She’s quite popular online, which is something, but I couldn’t help but consider her a bit of a Tumblr cliche. It’s not just her awkwardness and fanfictions – it’s her nativity, her obsession with slash (boy-on-boy) fics, sassiness, and how she’d rather live her life hiding than actually living it. Not that I’m saying any of these things are bad, but I can’t help but think that Rowel had studied internet culture and created a character solely for the purpose of being relateable. The other characters are somewhat flat – Reagan, Levi, Wren – which is too bad, but I don’t find that it harmed the story in any way. After all, the point is Cath and her development, not on the emotional struggles of everyone else. The only purpose for them being around is to basically influence Cath, so I guess that solves itself. Her father, however, is a little more fleshed out, and I appreciate Rowell’s take on bipolar and mental illness, having a bipolar dad myself.
However, I would say that those are the only few criticisms I would actually have for the book. The style was modern and engaging, and Rowell takes us deep into Cath’s head. We experience things with her, relatability or not, and it pulls us into the story. The dialogue is particularly engaging, and I’m not sure whether I like the modern language or sassiness better.
The main thing about the book that I liked, however, was Levi. Can you blame me? He’s a twenty-one year old student who used to date Cath’s roommate, but who soon falls in love with her. Can we just take a moment to talk about gorgeous male characters?
So, Levi’s a little older than Cath. He has experience. He’s touchy and in love and clearly wants to do nothing but make out with her – probably more. Fine, whatever, he’s a guy. That’s the way it goes. But he spends half the book trying to win her over. I mean, he drives across the country for her. He walks her home almost every night in the dark, he spends hours listening to her read her stories and enjoys_them. He remembers the littlest details about her, makes sure he’s always available, and takes an effort to learn about and enjoy the things that are important to her.
When they start dating, however, he’s an absolute treasure. Although they have kissed once before, he waits until he knows she’s comfortable with it. He never pressures her to come over to his house, and when she finally does spend the night in his room, he respects the fact that she’s nervous, going as far to say as that “sex isn’t even on the table if you’re not comfortable.” Whenever they get close, he always asks her if she’s okay with it, and probably my favorite thing – when she says she feels awkward and nervous about everything, he never asks her why, never presses her for answers or tells her that she’s worrying about stupid things. All he does is tell her that he would like to see her because he misses her even though it’s only been a few hours, and he’ll do whatever he can to make her feel comfortable and safe.
Basically, I want a darling boy who cares about me as much as Levi cared about Cath. Next time I have a family member in the hospital a few hours away, I’ll expect my boyfriend to drive up there and make sure I’m (and the rest of my family) is alright.
Last thing I’m going to rave on about this book – Cath’s transition into a relationship. Now, it’s well known that she writes slash, and it’s assumed that some of those scenes are probably a little more intense than just a PG-13 rating, and yet she’s incredibly naive and awkward when it comes to her own relationships with boys. Throughout the story, we see her start to process what it means to be in a relationship. She goes through the process of realizing she likes this guy, to realizing that she wants to hold his hand and kiss him and even go further than that. She doesn’t feel guilty about these feelings, doesn’t want to do this stuff to make him happy, but simply because she wants to.
However, she also realizes that she’s not ready, and she’s okay with that. She’s not putting pressure on herself to do anything beyond what she was comfortable with. She understood where she was coming from, what she needed, and not only set boundaries for herself, but expected that everyone else around her to respect those.
You don’t see a lot of relationships handled properly in media. They’re either codependent, abusive, or some other bad representation of things. But in Fangirl, Cath was just a girl. She was discovering herself and what love means for her. Further more, she wasn’t shamed or ridiculed for the fact she’s an eighteen-year-old virgin and doesn’t lose that status by the end of the book. She’s strong and can stand on her own. She takes care of Levi as much as he takes care of her, and she’s never once compromising herself for him. To be honest, I think Rowell created an amazing relationship standard that mroe young girls (and boys) should be learning. Instead of all the other crap, of course.
Have you read the book? What’re your thoughts?