Well, that was a pleasant surprise.
I spent the weekend binge-reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and I really enjoyed it. I liked Eleanor & Park, but I didn’t latch onto the writing enough to go to Barnes & Noble demanding they give me all the Rainbow Rowell books.
When I originally heard of this book, my only thought was how weird it was that Rowell had two books published in the same year. The next time I thought about Fangirl was when I ran across Carry On. It caught my interest because it was about a magic school, and evidently magical education is my thing (see Harry Potter, The Magicians, Codex Alera, Eragorn, The Raven Cycle). And then I saw that Carry On was the fictional world from another of Rowell’s books. The idea of a fictional world in a fictional world was a little too much for me. And I couldn’t read Carry On without reading Fangirl, and I didn’t really feel interested in the story of Fangirl at first glance.
And then it was on sale (3 bucks on Kindle, yo). And unlike most of my book buys, it only sat in the to-read list for a few days before I started.
And then I binged it.
At the earliest, I started to the book on Thursday (possibly Friday), and then I went crazy. There weren’t any movies I wanted to watch (that’s a bald-faced lie; I wanted to see the Captain America movie, but it’s never at Redbox when I go by), and there aren’t any shows I want to watch incessantly (looking at you, Seven Deadly Sins, last weekend).
So I read. And I read.
Saturday night, I ended staying up an extra hour reading. I was still a ways from being done, and I like to get a full night’s rest, so I put it away for the night and went to sleep.
And then I woke up at 4:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep. Seems as good of a time as any to keep reading, so I did. I almost feel asleep during a book I was really enjoying because of fatigue, but when the kindle says you’re at 90%, you keep reading.
It was good. And sadly, I’m still not a Rainbow Rowell believer yet. I’ll keep my eyes open, but the topic of the story is what matters to me.
Where she excels is making you following a mundane story in slightly less mundane circumstances. And always in Nebraska.
This makes me hesitant to read Carry On because it’s a severe departure from her usual pattern.
Fangirl follows a girl as she goes off to college and starts to come into her own. There are a couple of twists. The first is that she’s a twin, and the other twin has decided she wants some space. The second is that they’ve been raised by their father after their mother abandoned them. The third is that she lives for a Harry Potter-esque fictional world, including having a very successful line of fanfiction she’s been writing.
I probably empathize too much with the main character, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? You have a character living inside her head too much of the time, but that’s how she interacts with the world. It’s also how I interact with the world. For me, it’s like a gender-swapped version of me running around. Or a less cynical Daria if you’d like a non-Q reference point.
Fangirl isn’t perfect, but it’s a good read. There’s the meta element of our lead (Cath) going through her own creative writing class and critiquing the writing process.
Other than that, it’s pretty standard novel fare.
Our protagonist goes to college and has to figure out how to deal with a roommate, classes, boys, and family members going astray. Pretty typical stuff.
With fanfiction strewn throughout.
All in all, it’s well worth the read. If I feel like I can latch onto the basic idea, I’ll keep giving Rowell’s books a try. I know Eleanor & Park is probably the more well-regarded of the two (it’s the one I hear about the most, anyway), but Fangirl stood out to me as a better put-together story. That said, they both lack clean endings. I’m not sure how much of that’s intentional and how much is just not knowing how to wrap up the story.