Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (2013), narrated by Rebecca Lowman

Cath and Wren are twin sisters who grew up sharing a mutual love of a series of books starring a magician named Simon Snow. All through high school they wrote fan fiction together, but eventually Wren's interest began to wane and Cath continued on alone. The sisters decided to go to the same college and Cath was surprised to find that Wren didn't want to room with her. Feeling awkward and alone, Cath moved into her new dorm with a stranger who seemed to hate her. Her roommate's boyfriend Levi was always hanging around too. Cath couldn't adjust to campus life, felt alienated from Wren, and constantly worried about her emotionally fragile father, left at home alone. Even more concerning, the final volume of the Simon Snow series would be published soon and Cath absolutely must finish her version before the official version hits shelves.

This is one of the very best representations of starting college that I've ever read. I love how out of her element Cath felt. I love that she stocked up on power bars and peanut butter so she wouldn't have to face the dining hall. I laughed out loud at the scene in which Levi told Cath about some alpaca mittens knit in Ecuador that he bought outside the Student Union. It's a little thing, but really took me back to my own early college days.

The romance is the best. Where the hell was Levi when I was young enough to date him? I don't think a boy so perfect actually exists, but he is very convincing. Cath, on the other hand, seemed weirdly prudish. I could accept it if there was an explanation, but there wasn't - for us, or for Levi, who continued to be extremely patient. I mean, they barely kissed. Still, experience their romance slowly growing was the most wonderfully satisfying part of the novel.

On a more serious note, Rowell did a great job of handling difficult issues like Wren's excessive drinking, their father's mental illness, and the abandonment of the girls by their mother. That's a lot of serious issues for one book, but they are expertly woven into the story.

The audio was fantastic. At this point I'm pretty sure I could listen to Rebecca Lowman read her grocery list. She's incredibly talented at making subtle differences in the characters' voices, enough to tell them apart but not enough to be awkward or exaggerated. Unfortunately, I found myself drifting off during the Simon Snow excerpts and I don't know why. They were short and interesting, and narrated by a British man (except in those instances where Cath was reading them out loud). I think the change of pace between the regular story and the excerpts was just tough for me on audio.

Another excellent novel from the author of Eleanor and Park. I'm going to go back and read (or listen to) The Attachments, which she published a couple of years ago. If you like YA books, Rainbow Rowell should be required reading!

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