2014: 1. Fangirl

"There was a boy in her room."

Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell

Oh, my lord (as Claudia Kishi would say), took me long enough to finish a book in 2014.  I am bound and determined to get back to blogging about everything I read*, not just the highlights (as I've been doing since I started ye olde blogge back up), but I hit this total reading wall as the New Year came upon us.  I've been reading, yes, but not finishing.  I think I have six books in various stage of read flopping around my house, and nothing quite un-putdownable to actually finish.  Luckily, I finally got there, with Fangirl, another novel by Rainbow Rowell of Eleanor and Park fame.  

Not that this was an unputdowner, at least a first.  I bought this because Rowell wrote it, and because I love love loved Eleanor and Park.  Go read that if you haven't yet, especially those of you that like YA.  (BTW, Eleanor and Park is the token YA in this year's Tournament of Books, and, not surprisingly, the only book** on that list that I've actually read).  So the first thing I have to tell you, is that this is not Eleanor and Park.  This is much more standard YA - the emotional truths of Eleanor and Park were what made that book sing - everything that happened seemed real.  Here, I found myself on more than one occasion thinking things seemed pretty implausible, or that they happened only in  service of the plot.  It's a fine read, as I'll get too, but Rowell really upped her game in E&P in a way that is not present here.

The other hitch, is that the very subject of Fangirl isn't in my wheelhouse.  You see, the main character in Fangirl is a fanfic writer - not just any fanfic writer but a super famous one who gets million of hits because her prose is so great.  And, because, she writes the character (Simon Snow, aka Harry Potter) as in love with his male antagonist (Baz, aka Draco Malfoy).  I have no problem with teh gay (as they say on the internets), but fanfic always makes me uncomfortable.  It just embarasses me for some reason - I mean, its non of my business if you want to imagine other things happening to the characters in your favorite stories - be my guest.  But reading it makes me cringe.  I even feel that way about all the published Jane Austen fan fic continuing the story or adding murders or what have you - I am looking at you P.D. James.  Again, to be clear - I don't judge you if you write or love fan fic.  Go ahead.  But personally reading it makes me feel embarassed and goofy.  Don't know what I am so personally obsessed with authorial intent, but there you are.***

Ok, back from the tangent.  Anyway, this is the story of Cath, a college-freshman who is a famous fan fic writer in the Harry Potteresque world of Simon Snow (Rowell throws in a reference to Mr. Potter to drive our attention elsewhere, but do not be fooled. Simon is Harry).  She is also a total introvert, set adrift in college when her identical twin, Wren, decides it's time to put some space in their togetherness, and rooms with someone else.  Over the course of the novel Cath has to figure out her family relationships (with Wren, her bipolar dad, and the mom who left them on 9/11), her social life (is she going to experience college or just hide in her room?) her romantic life (what is going on between her and her roomate's sort of ex-boyfriend? and also, what's the deal with her cute writing partner?) and her writing ability (wahh, her professor thinks fanfic is plagiarism).  And, Rowell has to teach us the valuable level that fan fic is not for freaks. So, there is a LOT going on.

It's to Rowell's credit that this is a successful as it is.  As you can see, there is a lot (I would say too much) going on, and frankly, Cath is a very frustrating character (especially at first).  I get that that's the point, but you have to be willing to invest your time in someone who is a huge pill, and you have be supportive of her Simon Snow obsession, and it's a lot.  I think that as the book goes on, and the plot strands narrow, to where we are mostly focused on her relationship with 1) her twin and 2) her fan fic/writing in general, the book gets way better.  Rowell is a good writer, so if you like YA you might like this, but compared to Eleanor and Park, it's definitely more problematic.

*Although, my experience with less rigorous blogging has led me to realize that it's ok to do compilation posts in the future. I'll blog about all I read, but I'm not sure each book deserves its own post. 

**Well, I've read one of the play-ins- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and really liked it but I think that was during the days while the blog was dark.

***ARGH, well I have a theory but because it's embarassing I will put it in the comments.  When I was young, I was SO devastated by the end of Rilla of Ingleside (i.e. SPOILER when Walter died on the Western Front), that my friend, the OTHER living Queen of Booklandia (name redacted to preserve innocent biochemistry PhDs), and I wrote what was basically a fanfic where OMG he didn't die but was a POW and came back.  I don't remember much (other than a classic line where the years fall off Gilbert when he walks into the church - because of course it was during Jem and Faith's wedding!), but even as a grown up adult, part of me cringes.  #nowyouknowallmynerdysecrets.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017