I do not have time to read, but the books just keep getting stuck to my face. UF, HF, YA, fluffy romance, whatever. I love it all.
But I might judge you if you hand out five stars all willy nilly.
So, you're burnt out on the New Adult genre.
You've read 30.5 books this year about fictional girls having the same college experience, like they are in some sort of perverted episode of the Twilight Zone. They have all been raped, abused, or raised by wealthy parents who do not care about them and keep them from the one they love, but its ok because after one roll in the hay with the reformed bad boy, these girls have life figured out. They get over their past, they stand up to their parents, they pass the test and save the day. And you're just over it.
Yeah? Me too.
And then along came Fangirl: the antithesis of the new adult trope.
"Look at you. You've got your shit together, you're not scared of anything. I'm scared of everything. And I'm crazy. Like maybe you think I'm a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and mildly socially retarded, I'm a complete disaster."
-- Cath, to her roomate Raegan
That right there is why I'm continually drawn to coming-of-age tales set in college. It's because this period of life is magical. And awkward. And scary. And incredibly exciting. For the first time you are living on your own, making important decisions and mistakes, meeting new people who haven't known you since you were six, signing up for the credit card with 25% interest you were offered and then laughing all the way back to the dorm because, holy crap, someone just gave you free plastic! (Not that I did that in college *cough*)
And that is probably why I loved Fangirl and Cath so much. Because her college experience did not read like a Harlequin Teen novel. It read like my life.
"In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can't google.) Like, where does the line start? What food can you take? Where are you supposed to stand, then where are you supposed to sit? Where do you go when you're done, why is everyone watching you?"-- Cath, on why the cafeteria is scary
I loved this book because the angst in it was so subtle and yet I kept having these little electric waves of emotion roll through my chest on Cath's behalf: as she's navigating her classes... as she feels betrayed when her identical twin doesn't want to be her roommate and finds a new best friend... as she's struggling to feel comfortable in her own dorm room because she's living with a fairly intimidating (yet ultimately awesome) upperclassman named Reagan... as she reluctantly begins to interact with other people and learns the hard way that some can be trusted and some are just using you to get ahead... as she falls in love for the first time. All of the tension in this book felt authentic and not overdone, not over-the-top, and yet left my heart a little bruised. Because this is the angst that real people experience their freshman year of college, and I saw myself in it.
With that being said, I'm not kidding when I tell you Cath is the opposite of the typical NA heroine. She's awkward and has a bad case of social anxiety and is more firmly planted in her internet reality than actual reality; but she is also endearing and smart and Rainbow Rowell helps us understand her.
I've never written fanfiction, or read fanfiction, or even really been aware that fanfiction existed, but the point of the book was not to make me a fanfiction groupie. The point was to show the journey of one girl's first year in college, and that girl happened to be an incredibly talented writer of fanfiction. Cath writes slash fiction about Simon & Baz, who are the main characters in a Harry Potterish series, and there is quite a bit of talk about her fanfic throughout the book. Even though I can't identify with that personally, it didn't turn me off like I expected it to. Throughout the course of the book it even grew on me because Cath was growing on me, and I cared about her. Also, her roommate was there for comic relief and to say the things that most of us would be thinking if we were actually interacting with Cath.
"What do you mean when you write them? No, you know what? Nevermind. I don't want to know. It's already hard enough to make eye contact with you."
"You're just so helpless sometimes. It's like watching a kitten with its head trapped in a Kleenex box."
Cath is sometimes frustrating because you want to rush her, to force her to make the right decisions and to stop pushing people away. But that's why this is a coming-of-age tale and not a romance, although the love story in it gave me a true case of "the feels." It was well done, sweetly and slowly built, and even though it wasn't totally believable (he was almost too perfect) I was rooting for both of them. My cheeks hurt from smiling during their interactions and when it finally happened it was like this:
If you're looking for a steamy romance with a first-person POV, this isn't your book. It's extremely chaste. But if you love character-driven stories with humor, realistic dialogue, and a sweet love story, this one was really fun. This is truly the story of a girl who is coming of age, who is a young adult-- "someone on adulthood probation."
I loved tagging along for her journey.
**sidenote: If you're not loving the fanfiction parts, its easy to skip over without missing anything important. I did this a bit towards the end because I was so anxious to find out what was going to happen.**