6 – Life-Affirming and Life-Changing!
5 – A keeper!
4 – Very good
3 – Passable
2 – I’d rather read a telephone book
1 – An absolute bomb. Read at your own risk!
0 – Nothing will compensate for what I lost reading this book
After reading all these books for young adults where the young are either perpetually horny, perpetually smart-alecky, or perpetually pa-profound, you’ll be thrown off-balance when you first read Rainbow Rowell’s “Fan Girl”. What is this girl all about, what is this book all about? Is it worth my time and money or should I just toss this into my “To Donate” box?
Rainbow Rowell’s “Fangirl” is the story of Cath, a whiny, geeky, socially inept girl who hates change. Tough luck, for soon, Cath and Wren, her twin, are forced to leave their home and their dad for college. Unlike Cath, Wren can’t wait to start school. Soon, she leaves her socially anxious sister in order to try out all the fun things a freshman supposedly does (e.g., getting drunk with the popular ones). At first, Cath stays holed up in her dorm room, writing fan fiction. Unlike in real life, Cath is highly known in the fandom she belongs to (she is a well-known slashy/bromance fan fiction writer). But Cath can’t stay in her room forever. With the help of people like Reagan, her dorm mate, Levi, Reagan’s best friend, Cath is coaxed out of her shell. It turns out that Cath is a girl running away from her own life and its dark, painful secrets. As Cath slowly gets to know herself and the world and the people around her, Cath needs to make a decision. What kind of future does she want? Will she continue hiding in her boring but comfortable shell, or face her demons and build a new life?
To be honest, I initially thought this book was a dud, because the writing style was so simple. After reading John Green’s books, I was looking for something that was extremely witty or profound and “Fangirl” didn’t fulfill those expectations at first. It took a while, but I soon learned to appreciate what Rainbow Rowell offered her readers --- a simply written, yet very honest and moving book about the complex world of today’s teenagers.
In this book, we have twins (Cath and Wren) who are very different from each other. There’s the socially anxious Cath, who’s so scared of people, you wonder if she’s mentally ill. Then there’s Wren, who seems like your ordinary freshman. But then, as you read more about their lives, you discover that they are older beyond their years and are forced to cope in a world not of their own making. We see some of the ways teenagers deal with their angst in the 21st century (in Cath’s case, it’s escaping into the internet and her fan fiction writing; in Wren’s case, it’s partying). Yet, we also see that no matter what generation teens belong to, whether it be the 20st century or the 21st, there are some things that never change. A teenager will always need a home, a family and real friends.
Rowell’s cast of teenagers aren’t all innocent and virginal like Cath, but they are thankfully real and mostly good and kind-hearted. As for her cast of adults, it’s easy to sympathize with them, even though some of them are so screwed up. The good thing about this kind of portrayal is, readers are reminded that no matter what one’s age is --- whether one is a child, a teenager or an adult --- there is always hope for redemption, as long as one is brave enough to face one’s issues, forgive one’s self and others, and choose love over hate.