A couple weeks ago, Kate asked me what book she should read next. Without even thinking about it I shouted (typed) FANGIRL at her. I told it was perfect and she would love it and we needed to talk about it and OMG LEVI!
And despite her insane life and crazy work schedule she was finished it by 4pm the next day. And her reaction…well, I’ll let the review speak for itself.
Caitlin: Wasn’t this book perfect?
Kate: YES IT WAS IT WAS MY LIFE, CAITLIN!
Caitlin: I pretty much felt that way too.
Kate: Basically this book was my exact college experience, from the insecurity to the wardrobe to the weird hopelessness and the finding these people who just get you, even if they aren’t just like you. And I think this book is important because I think it speaks to everyone’s experience, really, even if they didn’t have a Harry Potter obsession. Or Simon Snow even.
Caitlin: Well, it was not my college experience (though, that is because I hid all my fandom stuff from college people) but everytime Cath explained something about herself to Levi I was all, “yes! That! That’s me!” I wish I could explain myself to people as well as Cath did.
Kate: And I loved Cath for that reason. She was unapologetic about who she was and what she loved. Maybe she needed to figure out how that fit in her new, grownup life but in the end she didn’t care because she wasn’t letting go of this thing that mattered so much and had been such a huge part of her life.
Caitlin: And I loved Rainbow Rowell because the book was not about taking a shy, quiet girl and turning her into a confident, party girl.
Kate: EXACTLY. She was still a fangirl in the end, just a functioning fangirl.
Caitlin: I loved Cath’s relationship with the people around her. I mean, obviously with Levi but also with Reagan and Wren and…that dude from the library.
Kate: I think her relationships and the trouble she had maintaining all of them was one of the best parts of this book because being a nerd is hard. Being a Big Time nerd is hardest of all because you sort of feel like no one understands but the internet. But then Cath had a sort of atypical fandom experience in the sense that people read and loved her work, but she didn’t seem to have the close friendships with people online I associate with fandom.
Caitlin: That was one thing I think was missing from this book. The internet side of things. You know? Like there was no drama, no internet-friends? I think that was the one thing Rainbow missed about being involved in a huge online fandom. If Cath’s story had that many readers, there would’ve been some drama.
Kate: I agree. She had the PHD student betaing her work, but otherwise we had no reference to a fandom interaction. No matter how big BNF Cath was, finding the people who are into this thing you’re so into in the same way you are? That’s the best part of fandom.
Caitlin: Yes, it is. The friends you make and the fandom being a part of your real life, that’s what makes all the drama and hard work worth it. But now. Lets talk about what really matters. Levi. I just love Levi.
Kate: OMG LEVI! My very favorite thing about Levi is that he’s not the kind of guy I would ever think to want for myself but would also probably really need. (Plus….A RANCHER!). He just fit with Cath. And what I also liked about Levi is that he appreciated Cath for who she was, which included the fandom part of her life. I loved how much this book appreciated the fact that fandom becomes part of who you are. That was something I loved about Wren, how she couldn’t erase the fandom part of herself, even if she wanted to.
Caitlin: And I loved that no one asked Cath to change or stop being in fandom. Yes, she had to grow and expand her writing, and her interactions with her new friends. But while people talk about it being weird, there is never a moment where she thinks she should stop or change who she is and that’s my most favourite thing ever.
Kate: Me too. And I’m glad that the people who care about her don’t always 100% understand her fandom involvement, but they respect it because it matters to her.
Caitlin: Also Also!!! I loved how she was with her mother. Like, I love that it was complicated and hard and that it wasn’t about Cath making peace with her mother, but about Cath making peace with herself about her mother.
Kate: I agree that I’m glad there was no easy solution to a complicated situation. Because her mom sucked. But my one issue with this book was how many complicated situations Cath had to deal with: 1) the mother who abandoned her; 2) the father who I believe to be bipolar; 3) the identical twin sister who was not only distancing herself but was also developing a drinking problem. All of those were on top of the normal stress of transitioning to college as someone who doesn’t quite fit in to the typical college lifestyle.
Caitlin: I kind of agree. It was a lot. But I do think a lot of the drama was connected. Especially Wren’s distancing herself and such. And I think having the opportunity to be a parent to Wren, really helped Cath’s father with his own problems. Though, I think this is something I mostly made up in my head. I don’t think it’s really on the page.
Kate: I actually think what happened with the girls’ dad was one of the most intriguing parts of the book. I liked how young their dad seemed and how hard it was for him to lose his girls. Empty nest syndrome is a bitch and being the bird who flew the nest is a horribly guilt ridden experience, and I think that’s an underexplored sentiment in YA. But I still think that his mental breakdown was one of the least effective parts of the book.
Caitlin: Should we talk about Levi some more? I feel like we haven’t explored the awesomeness of Levi enough.
Kate: Yes, we should obviously focus on the happy part of the book
Caitlin: I mean, he’s a rancher who owns a truck who works at Starbucks who falls in love with this uber-nerd. I just love it.
Kate: Levi is a lot like Cath in a lot of ways, except happiness is his fandom. His (sometimes relentless) cheerfulness made him who he was and he was unapologetic about it much like Cath was about Simon Snow. He was going to care about you and love you and you were going to like it, damnit!
Caitlin: My very favourite part of the book was when he and Cath had the following most perfect of perfect exchanges:
“And I repeat, you’re nice to everybody. You give away nice like it doesn’t cost you anything.”
Levi laughed. “It doesn’t cost me anything. It’s not like smiling at strangers exhausts my overall supply.”
“Well, it does mine.”
“I’m not you. Making people happy makes me feel good. If anything, it gives me more energy for the people I care about.”
Caitlin: I think this describes the difference between an introvert and an extrovert, perfectly. And I love that despite their different experiences of life they still love and understand each other.
Kate: This was one of my favorite books for a girl and boy getting to know one another and falling in love for that reason. They were clearly very different, but they complemented each other. It weirdly worked because Levi made her better – drew her out of her shell – and she made him better, too, because she expanded his horizons on so many levels.
Caitlin: From things I’ve read I got the feeling that Rainbow Rowell wasn’t ever as big a part of a fandom as Cath is (I could be wrong) but as someone who has been a part of one fandom or another since she was thirteen I felt a lot of this ring true.
Kate: I think that’s true. Because Cath’s experience was with the loving of the books. We didn’t see the people in fandom transform her, which I thought was an interesting take, and the books REALLY mattered because they tied her to Wren and her childhood.
Caitlin: Yes. Having Wren in her life could be a good explanation for why she didn’t have many online/fandom friends. She always had her sister and didn’t necessarily need to make friends online that would understand her love for Simon Snow.
Kate: And that is one of my favorite things about this book and the one I also wish had been explored more. Because there are these two IDENTICAL TWINS who care about the same things but also are starting to realize that they care about different things, too. And THAT was one of the most compelling parts of the book to me.
Caitlin: I really, really liked that they had so many of the same interests without being the same person. Even before they started to diverge in completely different directions. All the characters were just so very well written.
Kate: Everything was. Because even though there were a couple times I thought the book was the height of too muchery, every situation in this book was believable and relatable. It spoke to so many aspects of the college experience – not just the fangirl part (which is what spoke to me most). And Cath grew without losing who she was, which is what made her so great and what makes it such a beautiful, hopeful book for the nerd in all of us. You too can be into Simon Snow and get with a hot, older, amazing future rancher!
Caitlin: So pretty much this is a perfect book and everyone should read it. But especially people who have lived or are living the fandom life. Or know someone who is living the fandom live. This book gives a peek into our souls.