Between the Pages: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Cover of "Fangirl."
I initially had no plans on reading this since it didn't seem like my cup of tea. But while shopping for a book that I could read at the airport while waiting for my friend to arrive, he saw the title and jokingly told me, "You should totally read this. This is so you."

While I don't often advertise it, I admit that I am to some degree a fangirl. My brother has suffered many hours listening to me talk about my favorite characters from movies, shows and books. I say "suffered" because majority of the time I am either screaming or squealing.  He's even locked me out of his room a few times and only my tears could get him to open it again.

Though it probably isn't as bad as I am making it sound. According to my brother even that in a scale of 1-10, I only rate as a 4 or 5. That is not so bad, right?



According to him, it really depends on the fandom --- but I am also not obsessive about them. I write fanfiction, but that isn't really very weird to me since I basically write anything. I have also written original stories, essays, poetry and dabbled with writing lifestyle articles and journalism. Admittedly, I am not very good with the latter. My love for writing made me refuse to limit myself to one type of writing --- which is probably only one of the things I didn't agree with the main character, Cath. I will explain later in this review.

Summary


Twins Cath and Wren had always been the best of friends. In fact, they said that having a twin was like having a "built-in" bestfriend. They had lived their whole lives together and kept that close relationship despite how different they were. Cath was an introvert and preferred to stay indoors writing fanfiction from her favorite book series, Simon Snow.

But things were changing and Cath could sense it. Wren was excited to begin their "beautiful new adventure" but Cath was dreading it. Wren had refused to be her roommate when they moved for College. Grudgingly, Cath does give in.

Not surprisingly, Wren immediately became bestfriends with her roommate and Cath began a tentative relationship with her roommate, Reagan and a boy who she believed was her boyfriend, Levi.

Cath struggled with her new life in college and spends a lot of her time writing her Simon Snow fanfiction, Carry On, Simon. Writing it was what she considered her greatest masterpiece. Her boyfriend, Abel breaks up with her after he meets someone else and for the first few weeks, she had determined to survive without human contact for as long as she could. It was only when Reagan and Levi noticed that she was surviving on energy bars that she was forced to out of her voluntary isolation.

In Fiction-writing class, she impresses her teacher and she also meets the handsome teaching assistant, Nick. After doing well on an assignment together, Nick convinced her to write with him on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Missing her sister and the times they wrote together, Cath agreed. Unfortunately, when she submits a fanfiction for her assignment, her teacher failed her.

Little by little, her twin became more and more distant. Wren was absorbed in her new life and had began partying and getting drunk. One time after receiving a mis-sent text from Wren, Cath with Levi to a club believing it was an emergency. It turned out that it was just a mistake and had meant to send the text her her roommate. What was worse is that muggsy's was a club and her sister was drunk.

The sight of two attractive twins got the drunks in the club excited. This made Levi even when Cath told him that they were used to it. When one of the drunks got out of line, Wren's boyfriend, Jandro punched him just as Cath began dragging her sister out. The sisters fought. Wren was furious because she didn't want the night to end yet and Cath was furious because she felt her sister was being irresponsible. This caused a strain in their already fragile relationship. They had already been fighting because of their biological mother. Their mother abandoned them while they were children and was trying to get back in touch. Wren wanted to give her a chance, but Cath refused.

Things didn't improve when Nick begins showing his true colors by telling her that he was going to submit the story they made for their writing assignment. He insisted that it was technically his story and she mostly did the editing anyway.

As time went on, Cath became got closer to Levi. He walked her home whenever she was out in the evening writing with Nick, fed her quite a bit of times and even read fanfiction to him while he waiting for Reagan. It was only when Cath began reading "The Outsiders" to him to help him study for him test that she realized that maybe he liked her more than she thought. The two of them kissed, which made Cath feel guilty because she believed that he was her roommate's boyfriend. It turned out that Reagan and Levi weren't dating and that she would help them get together. Unfortunately, she accidentally caught Levi kissing another girl in the kitchen of his party.

She began avoiding him, but when her father got sick and she needed a ride she had no choice but to ask for his help. He confronts her about why she was avoiding him and she told him about what she saw. In his panic, he began telling that they were "just" kisses.


Her father had been mentally unstable since their mother abandoned them and had been in and out of the hospital over the years. Even after her father got better, Cath chose to stay with him and missing her finals. The more she stayed the more she believed that maybe it was a mistake to leave home. She wanted to return, transfer to a local college and take care of her father. Her father wasn't the only reason though. She was heartbroken about Levi and didn't want to see him anymore. Her father convinced her to finish one more semester at least.

When she returned to school, she had expected the worst ---especially for her Fiction-writing class. To her surprise, her teacher gave her a chance and told her that she had the rest of the semester to write a story. She also asked about Nick's writing assignment and asked if she had involvement in writing it. Cath admitted that she had. The teacher had though that was the case.

Returning to her dorm room, she found Levi there waiting for her. She didn't want to talk to him and was tempted to ignore him. But her feelings for him kept her from completely slamming the door on his face. She invites him in so they could talk. Levi admitted that he's been trying to get her attention for months and that it hadn't been "just" a kiss for him either. Eventually. they managed to repair their relationship and started going out. She read fanfiction to him and he even got to meet her father.

A while later, she received a call from Wren's phone. It took her by surprise since they hadn't been talking. When she picked it up, she was surprised by her mother on the other line instead. She told her that she was in the hospital because Wren was sick, which was later found out to be alcohol-poisoning. Cath went immediately to the hospital. As soon as she arrived, their mother wanted to leave. This made Cath angry, believing that as a mother she should wait to see Wren or talk to her at least because she wouldn't get another chance. It wasn't enough and she left.

Their father arrived a few hours later. The family got to meet Wren's boyfriend, Jandro and Wren found out that Cath has a new boyfriend. He took them home when Wren was strong enough to leave, but he made it clear that he wasn't going to ignore the incident. He made new rules for Wren and said that she was to return home. He disapproved of her partying and drinking lifestyle.Wren was upset and pointed out that she was young and everyone her age drank. It was a weak argument and her father was angry. He was too afraid that his negligence might have almost killed her.

After that scare, the twins managed to fix their friendship. It horrified Wren that she didn't even know that her sister had a new boyfriend. It hit her just then how far she had fallen. Eventually, their father decided to give Wren another chance but in his terms. Grudgingly, Wren agreed to his terms and the twins returned to school.

 This time things were improving. Cath felt like she finally had her sister back. She was helping her write Carry On, Simon again. She even asked if they could be roommates again, and she would hve said yes is she hadn't already promised Reagan. That wasn't all. Nick had come to see her again. This time he was asking her permission to be co-authors in his story so that he could have it published and claim an award as an underclassman. Saying anything to get her to agree and even playing with her guilt by telling her that she was the reason he lost his assistant teacher position with Professor Piper. Cath still refused, because while the best parts came from her it still wasn't her story.

It was around this time that Cath began to feel the pressure of "should she? Or shouldn't she?" sleep with Levi. She wanted to touch him and enjoyed kissing him but she wasn't sure if she was ready for that. He was much older and experienced.  Levi assured her that he wouldn't be pressuring her. He just wanted to love her.

Near the ending of the semester, Cath was busy. With the ending of Simon Snow approaching, Cath wanted to finish her fanfiction before then and leaving no time to write her assignment. This upsets Levi because he felt that she had her priorities wrong. They fight and Levi walked out telling her that he would see her in 9 days, After a crying session, Cath exits her room and found Levi there. He didn't like being away from her because he loved her too much. The couple made up and decided that she would finish that assignment.

At first she had struggled. Not knowing when to begin, but Professor Piper gave her advice to start with what she knew. She began writing a story about her and her sister's childhood, which she later won an award with. The award that Nick was supposed to receive. The book ends with Levi and Cath with Cath reading to Levi the last book of the Simon Snow series.


Characters


Cather "Cath" Avery, the fangirl
(Photo Edit by myangeltessa@tumblr)
Cather "Cath" Avery - The fangirl, more specifically the Simon Snow "fangirl". It was a series that was probably based on the Harry Potter franchise. I had my doubts about this book before I bought it. But she turned out to be the most interesting character I have ever read in a long while. I find it funny that I find her so relatable and real, but still not the most likable people. She can be annoying, she can be petty and she can be absolutely immature but I strangely think her character is so  her for all that.

The author balanced her bad and good points very well. Yes, she is annoying, petty and immature, but she also loves sincerely and her intentions are never malicious. While most of the time she either doesn't know what is going on or isn't quite sure what to do, she always based her decision  in what she felt was right.

As I mentioned earlier in this review, there was something I didn't agree with with Cath. She was ready to quit her assignment simply because she didn't want to expand and create her own world. She wanted to keep writing about someone else's world. While I understand the feeling, I personally don't like being limited when it comes to writing. I am glad that she found the inspiration later to do it. But I guess, this is a coming of age story so part of her grown is widening her range as a writer. Cath's character speaks to a part of me. The part that still loves her fandoms and getting lost in other worlds in my head.

Wren Avery - She is Cath's twin sister and "built-in" bestfriend. While Cath was the introvert, Wren was the all-around party girl. She was the opposite of Cath in personality as can be, with the exception of them both loving Simon Snow. Wren makes dumb choices and always excused her behavior by using her youth, which I found quite annoying. It might have taken a brush with death to make her change her ways but she did become a better person in the end.

While I may not be a fan of her decisions, I can't say I don't understand where they were coming from. I do understand that drinking and going out and experimenting, but she still knew it was wrong. I still like Wren even if I don't like her decisions. Like her sister, there are aspects you won't like and will like about her. The thing is, Wren also speaks to me but probably a smaller part than Cath. I would go absolutely berserk if I can't go out with my friends and having to have to stay home all the time. Also, I kind of doubt I am anywhere as brilliant as Cath in school work.

"Levi," the nice guy from Starbucks
(Photo Edit by myangeltessa@tumblr)
Levi - Probably the most lovable character in this whole group. He is probably the perfect boyfriend and the best part was that he is actually realistic. At first I wasn't sure their relationship would work. Levi was social and allergic to loneliness, while Cath gets easily grossed out by other people. Cath was a brilliant writer and Levi wasn't even much of a reader. On paper, I didn't know what they could possibly base a relationship on.

Despite my initial uncertainty about him, especially when he kissed another girl he did prove that he was a really good guy and does sincerely love her.

I find it brilliant that Levi does know how to use his weakness as his advantage. He noticed that Cath was more relaxed when she was reading to him and used that to build a relationship with her. Which is good because Cath really has no idea what to do with a person like him. Her last boyfriend was much like her.

Arthur Avery - He is the twins' father, an intelligent and eccentric man with a fragile mind. In the book he is shown to be mentally ill and had been since his ex-wife left him. While he loved his daughters and understands that he does need support, he wouldn't do anything to ruin their future. He pushed Cath not to stop going to university to take care of him and despite his determination to keep Wren from making more mistakes, he decided on a compromise instead.

I envy the twins for having him as a father. Despite his condition, he always puts his daughters first. That is admirable. He lets the twins be themselves and even understanding Cath's fascination for gay fanfiction. However, he does have limits and Wren's alcohol poisoning incident was one. Over-all, he is a good father despite his condition. But knowing that makes me think he is more admirable.

Professor Piper - Cath's Fiction-writing professor and historical fiction writer. I want a teacher like her, though worried at the same time since I am uncertain about teachers who play favoritism. But I like that she can recognize talent and pushes it. She is also fair and I think what she did to Nick was appropriate punishment.

Nick - Cath's writing partner. He used Cath to write an anti-love story that was good enough to almost win him an award. Unfortunately for him, he was caught which is rather stupid since writing is like a blueprint. It is a look into a person's head and since the teacher has seen his solo works, didn't he think it would be suspicious that he was suddenly very good? Because I found his writing personally painful to read from the samples.

Reagan - Cath's roommate and Levi's former girlfriend. Her relationship with Cath had been either very awkward and forced at first. First because she found Cath too strange and then later because Cath began dating her bestfriend and ex-boyfriend, Levi. At the end of the book, their relationship is shown to be better. She even asked Cath to be her roommate again. Cath tells her sister that she might even be Reagan's female bestfriend. The reason for her breakup with Levi was her cheating.

Author

Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow Rowell, writes books. Sometimes she writes about adults (ATTACHMENTS and LANDLINE). Sometimes she writes about teenagers (ELEANOR & PARK and FANGIRL). But she always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they're screwing up. And people who fall in love.

When she's not writing, Rainbow is reading comic books, planning Disney World trips and arguing about things that don't really matter in the big scheme of things.

She lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.



Conclusion


This book paints a perfect picture of what it is like to be a teen and in deep in a fandom without romanticizing it to inaccurate proportions. Actually, considering the many older fangirls I know, I imagine even older audiences can relate to this. Me included. While I may not be as diehard as the average fangirl is, I have my moments.

I didn't expect to like it because the genre is not taste and I thought it would be a typical romanticized teen drama. Or maybe make the fangirl the a sort of a fool. One of the things I always disliked about some people when I tell them I don't party is them saying, "You are missing half your life." Until now, that never made sense to me. I can relate to Cath in a way that we both just don't feel that way about partying. Once in a while is fine. I'm even fine with getting drunk! But writing is our haven. It is a paints an accurate picture of how people like Cath think of partying.

While the romance is still there, it is only there as the icing but not the whole cake.In fact, I think the story focuses a lot on Cath trudging through a new environment and situation. What I love about it is that there is a perfect amount of appearances from all the characters, even supporting characters. They have distinctive and memorable personalities that aren't just around to serve as decorations.

I thoroughly enjoy the book despite my earlier hesitation to read it because it might simply be over-hyped and I might be disappointed. I am even excited to read what is said to be --- a spin-off of Fangirl. The story is the fanfiction Cath was writing in Fangirl.

I am expecting it will give me a sort of Drarry fanfiction feel, which is not bad because I actually read some that I actually like. I might not ship it as much Dramoine, I am not going to underestimate the good writers from that ship. Carry on, Mrs. Rowell, Carry on!





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