Here's the thing: the first third of this book is absolutely swoon-worthy. I loved Cath's entry into cOh, Fangirl. I almost hate to write this review.
Here's the thing: the first third of this book is absolutely swoon-worthy. I loved Cath's entry into college. So much resonated so well: The slow development of a friend, then a couple friends, then a whole social world. Her fear of the cafeteria. The way that casual acquaintances such as that-friend-of-my-roomate can insidiously become close friends. The way that casual acquaintances can become all of a sudden close friends through platonic one-night stands. The juggling of the academic expectations with all of the other life expectations that blossom in college. All of these things Rowell depicts so well and the nostalgia was so strong and so sweet. My only criticism of this first third was that to be true to my experience, I would have loved to see fandom depicted in Cath's real life: my undergrad timeline with regard to Harry Potter was slightly different than Cath's with Simon Snow (Order of the Phoenix came out between my sophomore and junior years, Half-blood Prince the summer after undergrad and Deathly Hallows on my first call of medical school) but nonetheless, being a Harry Potter fan and an all around geek was a major part of my in-person social life in undergrad. Despite this small criticism, though, I was a major fan(girl) of the first third -- easily one of the best college-life books I've ever read.
Then, everything changed -- yucky romance plot! To be fair, I adore epic platonic stories; I crave platonic relationships in literature; I'm basically the inverse of a shipper in that I was deeply, personally invested in the platonic relationship between Cath and Levi. Deep, important platonic relationships between (straight) men and women are almost never depicted in literature, so when they are and they're positive, I horde them. Therefore, I wanted to cry when Rowell put them together, and my love for Fangirl never recovered. After my adoration for and identification with the Cath of the first third, I literally felt personally betrayed by their relationship. And when I recovered from that emotional reaction, I still felt that the last two thirds was lacking the magic of the first.
-Reagan is basically the best character ever. Nuanced, assertive, abrasive but caring -- basically the person I wish had been my undergrad roommate. She is virtually absent after her reaction to Cath and Levi getting together -Levy is just not that interesting as a romantic interest. He's too perfect and featureless. -Wren frustrates the heck out of me. Not the character, but her depiction. It is so shallow -- she reads like an Afterschool Special on the risks of drinking. Not interested!
I did like the Simon Snow bits, and I really enjoyed the snippets of Carry On, Simon. I love the technique of snippets of a book within a book, left for the reader to fill in the details. Also, after some discussion with Jon, I liked the way that Cath's major writing assignment was dropped for hundreds of pages to jump in again and punch her in the face -- my anxiety about its absence was a pretty visceral recollection of what having a major assignment like that was like in my own life. Probably not a pleasant writing technique, though.
I can't help but recommend this to people -- the first third was so freaking good, but don't be me! Stop at page 150 and imagine how amazing the rest could be....more