10 January 2014

Fangirl: Review

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (@rainbowrowell)

This is the second book by Rainbow Rowell that I have read this year. I loved Eleanor & Park, and my tweets about it led my PLN to read and love it too. As a result, Starr Sackstein (@mssackstein) (her review of E&P) and I decided to read Fangirl together.

We were separated by time by more than half a day, yet we read and chatted about this book via Twitter. It was great to share reading, as although it can be a mostly solitary pursuit, it HAS to be shared. The worlds we inhabit when we read, and the characters we meet have to be talked about.

In The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller suggests that readers lead richer lives, more lives, than those who don't read, and I think that one of the main ways I am successful in endearing the majority of my students to reading is because we talk about the characters as if they are real. To me, while I am in the world, they are - and Fangirl was no exception.
My Tweet after finishing Fangirl
Levi sparked some serious conversation on Twitter:
@mssackstein, 2014

@jdrich219, 2014

Levi is an incredible character; perhaps not one appreciated by 18 year old girls, but definitely by those of us twice that age! He steals the show and makes you want to read more - yet he does not figure in any blurbs. In fact, the focus of the blurbs is on Simon Snow, a fictional character (within the fictional world - is he meta-fictional?) with whom the protagonist, Cather, is obsessed. I do not like magicky books, and I found the novel-within-a-novel (meta-novel?) annoying. Yes, it was clever in how it mimicked the action of the novel-proper, but it annoyed me because I just don't like magicky books, and I would have preferred it without those parts. 

A lot of the book deals with Cather's obsession with this (Harry Potter-esque) character and her writing of fan-fiction, which can be viewed as a metaphor for that transient confusing period where we leave home and leave behind childish things. We are not a child. We are not an adult. We are often not quite ready, even though we are at the same time. The need to cling dearly to a huge part of her past manifests in Cather's need to focus on fan-fiction. It is the string that keeps her in her childhood, but one that also prevents her from focusing on her own original material. On herself as an adult. 

I grew to like Cath, and Reagan rang true, but it is the male characters that are the most rounded. Rowell has a knack for creating great male characters - you can see how we feel about Levi from above, but I also like Cath's dad, and I also love Park. I struggle more to envision her female characters, they are weaker and less defined, more sketched and unfocused. But they are real and intriguing. What makes this book worthwhile however is Levi, read it for him if nothing else. He is positive, supportive, kind, generous, attentive and respectful. His smile will stay with you long after the pages are read.

A great book to follow this would be Solanin, which takes place in another period of change, that following graduation from universtiy and entry into the real world.

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