Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park was, last year, a phenomenon, and for very good reason. I loved it. Loved it so. hard. So I was super excited to read her new one not long ago.
Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin’s Griffin, ISBN: 978 1 250 03095 5
Cath is upset and a bit adrift when her twin sister tells her she doesn’t want to room with her as they start college, and she seems intent on having nothing to do with her any more, preferring to leave behind the things they’ve shared and try on a whole different persona. It’s not helping her adjustment any that she is shy, feels awkward, and would prefer to stay in and write fanfiction than go out and meet people or party.
Her creative writing course seemed like her best bet for a great term, but she learns a few harsh lessons there, while on the flip side, her roommate, who seems a little scary, turns out to be a good ally. And then there’s Levi, who is a bit of a puzzle. She’s not sure she’s keeping her head above water, and a few setbacks are really making her doubt, when much more serious issues with her dad and her sister make everyone refocus and decide to make some changes that leave the novel on a happier, more hopeful note, with everyone looking set to move forward.
It’s very much a coming-of-age story, this, and Cath and her sister both learn a lot about what’s important to them and what growing up is all about. I have to say, though, that though I still really enjoy the writing here, the bar was set pretty high by Eleanor & Park, and this had almost no chance of meeting it. The fan fiction interspersed with the main story was, in the estimation of some readers I know, a distraction that they started to skip over partway through. I did read them, but didn’t feel like they needed to be there, and I didn’t love the characters the same way, either. She’s a fine, fine writer, and I’d definitely pick up her next book, but maybe I would try to manage my expectations ahead of time, because I think this suffered a lot by my comparison. Still, teens who are part of a fandom might just love this aspect and certainly those who face change with trepidation could find a lot to relate to in Cath.