Okay, FANGIRL. It’s one of the few contemporaries I’ll read this year, but yes, I may very well pick up other titles by the same author.
I’m not going to really review this, because plenty of other people have and I don’t think I can improve on their reviews. Like Angie, for example, whose review persuaded Chachic to pick it up, and then I saw Sherwood Smith’s review on Goodreads, and FINE, I eventually picked this one up because of all the PRESSURE, I swear.
And, with one fairly important caveat, I really loved it! But I still don’t want to write a review as such. Instead, here are the characters —
It felt good to be writing in her own room, in her own bed. To get lost in the World of Mages and stay lost. To not hear any voices in her head but Simon’s and Baz’s. Not even her own. This was why Cath wrote fic. For these hours when their world supplanted the real world. When she could just ride their feelings for each other like a wave, like something falling downhill.
When they turned down the hallway, they could see Levi sitting against their door. In no circumstance would Cath ever run squealing down the hall into his arms. But she did her version of that – she smiled tensely and looked away.
Wren usually lost interest in a guy as soon as she’d won him over. The conversion was her favorite part. “That moment,” she told Cath, “when you realize that a guy’s looking at you differently – that you’re taking up more space in his field of vision. That moment when you know he can’t see past you anymore.”
Dad? Call me.
It’s Cath again. Call me.
Dad, stop ignoring my voice mail. Do you listen to your voice mail? Do you know how? Even if you don’t, I know you can see my number in your missed calls. Call me back, okay?
Dad, call me. Or call Wren. No, call me. I’m worried about you. I don’t like worrying about you.
Dad, are you eating? What are you eating? What did you eat today? No lying.
Reagan wore eyeliner all the way around her eyes. Like a hard-ass Kate Middleton. And even though she was bigger than most girls – big hips, big chest, wide shoulders – she carried herself like she was exactly the size everyone else wanted to be. And everyone else went along with it.
Levi was wearing a black sweater over a white T-shirt. He looked like he’d just gotten a haircut – shorter in the back but still sticking up and flopping all over his face. He called out someone’s name and handed a drink to a guy who looked like a retired violin teacher. Levi stopped to talk to the guy. Because he was Levi, and this was a biological necessity.
[Nick] looked up at her and smiled crookedly, holding out a few sheets of paper. “Will you read this? I think maybe it sucks. Or maybe it’s awesome. It’s probably awesome. Tell me it’s awesome, okay? Unless it sucks.”
The writing fic:
“Also, the car? No. No to the vintage Volvo.”
“It’s a character detail.”
“It’s a cliché. I swear to God, every surviving Volvo produced between 1970 and 1985 is being driven by quirky fictional girlfriends.”
Nick pouted down at the paper. “You’re crossing out everything.”
“I’m not crossing out everything.”
“What are you leaving?” He leaned over more and watched her write.
“The rhythm,” Cath said. “The rhythm is good.”
“Yeah?” He smiled.
“Yeah. It reads like a waltz.”
I loved so much about this book. I loved Cath, and I loved how her tight pov led the reader through the story. I loved her dad — I wasn’t sure until the thing with Wren after she’d been in the hospital, but yeah, I LOVED her dad. I swooned over Levi. Such a great “nice guy” character, not too perfect nor too simple, but just right. I loved Reagan.
I loved the presentation of writing.
Sherwood Smith said:
The entire thread about writing, fiction, fan fiction, characterization, and all related subjects was one of the best parts of the book. Cath’s creative writing teacher will not accept fan fiction as writing, period. Cath struggles to the very end with having to write “real” fiction. I appreciated how Rowell brought up all these points of view sympathetically, realistically, without passing judgment, underscoring how many ways of being creative there are (which acknowledging patterns in certain kinds of storytelling).
Me, too. Loved this. Loved it. BTW, I don’t agree with Cath’s teacher. As her teacher, I might have insisted that Cath step outside her fanfic world, but I would never have told her that fic is plagiarism, because please. There is no intent to deceive with fic, and to me that is the actual defining characteristic of plagiarism. I say that as someone who has never and will never write fic, btw, but that’s because I can’t, not because I think it’s “not real writing.”
Never mind, this element worked in FANGIRL, and I bet some teachers do feel the same way as Cath’s teacher.
I see some reviewers skipped the fanfiction bits. I didn’t. I loved the fanfiction bits and how the experience of writing was presented. I say this even though I thought Simon Snow (Harry Potter, basically) was rather an idiot and also surprisingly self-absorbed — Baz (Draco Malfoy) was far more interesting and sympathetic in the tiny bits we see.
I loved the bit about writing feeling like a wave, like falling downhill, because that is exactly how writing does feel to me, when it’s at its best. Which is not all the time (it is generally a small percentage of the time, alas).
What I didn’t love: am I the only one who thought the ending failed to tie up loose threads?
I thought the story really needed at least one more scene with Cath’s mom. In fact, I think another scene with the mom could have been used to set up the snippet of Cath’s fiction that closed the book.
I would have liked to know for sure that Cath finished “Carry On, Simon” before the release date of the eighth canon novel.
I would have liked to know whether she had the Mage betray Simon, and whether she went through with killing Baz or whether Wren talked her out of it.
And so on.
Nevertheless, I smiled all the way through this book, bookmarked many pages, and will certainly read it again.