Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

by: Rainbow Rowell


Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan.. But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind? – Goodreads

Playing on the world of fanfiction, Fangirl highlights a college girl who finds solace in her protected world of her twin sister and her popularity as her Internet self of writing fan fiction on a Harry-Potter-esque sort of world except its called Simon Snow. College brings its own challenges and a different perspective of what she needs to embrace as she slowly steps out of her comfort zone because of her sister’s desire to have her own experiences. New friends, new environment, new expectations and somehow Cath is still holding onto what makes her comfortable and its weird for those around her. This is pretty much a coming of age story and strip it away from its fanfiction premise, its actually fairly common however, Rainbow Rowell gives Cath as well as the other characters very contrasting personalities that complement each other really well.

Perhaps where the story structure seems a little less flowing is in the Simon Snow segments that get sandwiched in between the chapters, which are short and mostly draw some kind of parallel to the reality on hand but because its so similar to Harry Potter, Simon Snow itself almost feels like a fanfiction. Putting that aside, the world of fanfiction is portrayed fairly well and in the sense, those side segments of Simon Snow fiction from its actual author contrasting with those as fanfiction pieces written by Cath which draws the key element of what fanfiction is and is what brings the unique elements to the story of how Cath crafts her version of Simon Snow’s life on the foundation of something built by someone else’s world.

What is the best draw of Fangirl does go down to the witty cast of characters. Cath has this sassy attitude that is unique to her introvert self with her own set of baggage stemming from her family and in contrast to a clash and friction in her relationship with her twin Wren as well as slowly stepping out of her shell with her roommate and boyfriend who both also have quite distinctive personalities. The dialogue written between these characters are entertaining and colorful and a lot of fun, packed with laugh out loud moments. It highlights a lot of the different types of people that we meet in college as the world expands and there are different perspectives on things that were once familiar. It looks into different elements of Cath’s life that highlights why she is the way she is.

With a fun writing style and some well-crafted characters as well as dynamic power of dialogue that brings out each of these characters even more, Fangirl is a fun little dive. While striping away its fanfiction background, its really a fairly normal sort of coming of age story, there is still something engaging about it that gives it that unique light. I’m not quite sure whether its the fanfiction since that didn’t play too much into reading experience but more the fact that its the way that Rainbow Rowell crafts her story and the way she writes it that lifts this story to another level. I do however think that the first two-thirds of the story is a little better written than the last act that seemed to fall a little more flat. Overall, its still pretty great.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Next up is the first book I read from Rainbow Rowell.  I’ve been heading a lot of talk about all the books from Fangirl and especially Eleanor and Park and how it torn the readers apart and an amazing YA romance and all that stuff.  I’m always down for a good romance even if I have to say that so far, a lot of books haven’t quite hit the spot.  Maybe its because I’m getting older and even if I like reading YA and children’s book, I’m starting to get a little fed up of lack of originality. I’m extremely forgiving of it and I easily fall for a good love story and even then, I’ve been in the lower than average group for feedback.  I’m thinking its just a phase but who knows. Eleanor and Park is supposed to be different so I’m hoping that it will be! 🙂

Let’s check it out!

Eleanor and Park
by: Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.
Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.-Goodreads

Eleanor and Park is definitely something special.  Maybe its because everyone says how amazing it is that I had higher expectations than I should so it didn’t quite me blow me away so much or its because I keep noticing how this story feels like a Taiwan TV drama or something except with a more bittersweet or tearing you apart reality to it.  Eleanor and Park is about first love and being different and first impressions and all that high school stuff we encounter.  Eleanor and Park are beautiful characters and its goes to the extent of even different cultures and social standings of coming from different families and backgrounds.  There’s a “real” drama to it that makes us know that the breaking up is almost inevitable and it makes us feel kind of like a first love where you want it to last even when you know it won’t but at the same time, you can’t help but to hope that the odds are with you and not against you.  I think that’s the power of the story of Eleanor and Park and what makes it even better is the way it ends.  I think that part is important to the experience so I don’t want to go any deeper about it so to not spoil it for anyone that hasn’t read it.

Eleanor and Park does the best in giving us some very great characters in Eleanor and Park.  Eleanor is an oddball who comes from a pretty bad family background with a mom that doesn’t seem to care and being away because she wanted to escape her stepfather and the bad that he is for her and her siblings.  Eleanor is in danger and we know it every time its her side of the story.  She pretty much has nothing and doesn’t really know much because she has never had the chance.  Park is the exact opposite of her and from a chance encounter on the bus, they grow into unlikely friends and takes a lot of courage to be able to become friends and more to break down barriers of the stereotypes of school and all that.  While on the surface, Eleanor and Park contrast in their backgrounds, deep down they both have their struggles at home and outside.  They both struggle with different stereotypes and they find solace in each other.  The beauty is that the best relationships are found in the simple things from what we like such as music and comic books (or anything else that is interesting and sharing them). It also shares the message that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that sometimes we are more judgmental about ourselves than others are and that makes us more sensitive but sometimes, others don’t understand the way things come off in words to someone else in whatever situation.  Those are just a few messages that this novel about young love highlights.

When I first finished Eleanor and Park, I can’t say that I didn’t feel a little frustrated because it focused a lot on the misfortunes of a young girl and the boy being the more fortunate one but giving it a while to settle and remembering it now, there are many memorable parts and the ending kind of creeps up on us unknowingly.  First loves etch a mark in our hearts and the rare first love will last but there’s something very unforgettable about Eleanor and Park and how they portray it, adding that hint of bitter and sweet to put this together so that we cheer for this young love to be together.  There are a few moments that feel a little clunky and maybe its even dragged on in some other parts and there are frustrations in some of the other characters that may or may not reflect reality (since I haven’t lived a life like Eleanor’s) but this novel definitely tries hard to dig deep into our emotions.  It didn’t exactly tear me apart but it made me feel for this story and kind of stun me a little by the final act and epilogue. It made me think more looking back at the novel than when I first put it down. It makes me wonder what a second reading would make me feel now. Maybe one day I’ll revisit it.

Have you read Eleanor and Park? Did you like it?