I did that thing where I finished two books on consecutive days. And this was completely reading a book, not just finishing two books I was reading concurrently. Concurrently. That’s a fun word to use.
But context is in order. I finished Pride and Prejudice around 5 in the morning yesterday, and then I finished Fangirl around 10/10:30 last night, so really it took two days to read the second book.
Side note, did you realize contemporary YA fiction is a quicker read than early 19th century British literature? Who’d have known?
Anyway, this review marks a first for the blog. Obviously not the first book review, and it’s not even the first review of a re-read. But it is the first time I’ve re-read a book I’ve already reviewed on this blog.
First, I’ll tell you why I’m still reviewing it, and then I’ll discuss the curveball this causes.
So why? Well, I’ve been reviewing re-reads, so this fits in those rules. Also, and this is probably the real reason, I want people to know how much I read. I hate that Goodreads can only track which books I’ve read, not how many times I’ve read them. The Goodreads number is certainly missing some books, especially from my pre-college reading, but it’s still a decent show of what I’ve read dating back to my Goosebumps days (a search just showed I don’t have those listed, so I guess that’s something I get to add now). Problem is I like to re-read books. I hate that I don’t get my gold star for re-reading books. It still counts as reading even if I’ve already read the book. This is me making my own gold star.
And how is this a curveball? You can already see the original review. This means I can’t just review the book like I normally would, even for a re-read. It means I need to give a different take (or waste your time telling a roundabout story like I’m in the middle of doing). I also have to read that review myself so I don’t get repetitive.
But in case you don’t want to read that review, here are the cliffnotes version: Fangirl is by Rainbow Rowell (more well-known for Eleanor and Park, which I read before this blog existed and haven’t felt the need to read again, though it was an enjoyable book). It follows one-half of a set of twins who go to college. The other twin wants some independence. Our main character has no interest in independence or people. We follow the shy introvert through her first year of college. Oh, and she also just happens to be an extremely popular fanfiction writer. I loved this book, which surprised me at the time. So much so that I started itching to re-read it a few weeks ago, even though it’s been less than a year.
The big thing for me in any book is being able to either empathize or root for the main character. I like the plucky underdog. I like the character who’s in one way or another not at the same ability level as the people around them. It makes them more creative in how they solve problems. That’s what you get in this story. Cath, our main character, does know how to function alone in society, and now she’s gone off to a big university to fend for herself and fails miserably at first. You know it won’t stay that way. That’s not how YA fiction works, so it’s bad knowing that good is around the corner.
Something I didn’t mention last time that I was paying more attention to here is the inclusion of snippets from the Simon Snow series that exists within the books (8-book series that is basically Harry Potter). This is the series she bases her fanfaction on. The snippets are a mix from the real (within Fangirl) series and the fanfiction version that Cath writes (with some co-written by her sister).
The first time I viewed these as interruptions more than anything else. They felt like a distraction, kind of like those chapters in Grapes of Wrath that deviate from the family’s story.
For some reason, I liked it better this time. It felt like the snippets were slightly mirroring the real book I was reading a little more (even though they’re the exact same snippets as before). And I definitely was paying more attention to which version the snippets were coming from because it allowed you to track the mental state of Cath if the fanfiction snippets were while she was in that first year of college. Either way, it’s not something you see a lot of in books.
I mentioned last time why this book draws me in: I see a version of myself. Now, I’m not a teenage girl from Omaha, but I understood wanting just be left alone, especially in that first year of college (and pretty much every year since then). I understood the fear of interacting. I think some of why I like to read this is that I could vicariously live out the character’s experiences and feel like that was me, even though I was sitting in a cushy chair reading a Kindle. Given the character’s preferences, she might have wanted to switch places.
I’m rambling. But basically, everyone needs a story they can relate to. A story that gives them hope. I don’t get to redo college. I don’t get to take back the decisions I made (and many of them were just non-decisions), but when I’m reading this book, it feels like I get a little bit of a do-over.
Of course, that’s not how life works. But that’s partially how I was processing this book.
So I loved the book well enough to re-read it within a year. I love the characters and how they interact. And this is very much a book without a ribbon-tied ending. Do I want a sequel?
I just don’t know how she would make that work. It’s not to say that it couldn’t, but this book covers a very specific time of life. The characters aren’t perfect, and you could always throw in a plot device to rattle cages, but it wouldn’t necessarily work.
And that’s ok. Not everything needs a sequel. This book follows a very contained world around Cath. A sequel wouldn’t necessarily work for her. It would have to cover very different struggles, but she got a handle on most of her problems (that’s probably the least realistic aspect is that she overcomes most of her problems in a 30- to 60-day span).
You can’t just rehash that. That said, you could probably follow other characters.
It would be interesting to see this same timeframe from the aspect of other characters, especially her twin sister. The twin is the least visible main character in the book. She was living a different life and has her own redemption arc, so that could be an interesting story to follow.
But that’s the end of this review. Don’t expect another post tomorrow. I’m moving on to Anansi Boys. I love Neil Gaiman, but I can’t read his novels as quickly. They’re not that long; he just writes denser material that I can’t pore over as quickly.