~will contain spoilers~
Written by Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl is an honest, relatable depiction of new experiences and opportunities offered to a first year university student. It combines wit, humour and ‘dorky’ interests with more hard-hitting issues, such as family drama and the struggle of living with social anxiety. While, as most stories do, it concentrates on the lives of the characters, it also explores the whole culture of an online ‘fandom’, which makes it a fresh and modern read.
Cath is the protagonist of this story. She is reserved, socially anxious and obsessed with the life of fictional character Simon Snow. She seems to just be existing rather than actually living. Despite this, although she might not be the most extroverted of people, she is just as interesting as her very outgoing twin sister Wren. There are aspects to her character that I find makes her an unlikeable character. For example, she is very withdrawn emotionally and this makes her difficult to align and empathise with. She also tends to have a superiority complex. For example, when Levi told her he works at Starbucks, she snorts with derision and says, “Really?”, later on describing it as a “big, faceless corporation”. This could also be the product of her upbringing, as her family life has been challenging, leading her to keep her thoughts to herself to prevent herself from getting hurt. Her addiction to Simon Snow, her obsession with manipulating his life and creating her own world within his fictional world, gives her a sense of control that she was not able to have when her family was falling apart. This makes me appeal to her character more as this information about her background reminds me that she isn’t emotionless and detached, instead she is suffering from her past, and even her present. Throughout reading the novel, I began to take to Cath more and more. This is because of the character development superbly written by Rowell, as Cath gradually begins to improve her sense of self and learns to love again. This character development is partly down to Levi. As Cath begins to fall for Levi, she also begins to challenge herself and do things that are out of her comfort zone. For example, she attends his party, which is the kind of invitation she has been declining for months. This makes her come out of herself and she starts being more honest and open not only with the other people in her life, but also with the reader. Her increased self worth is shown towards the end of the novel when she refuses to be manipulated and exploited by Nick, and she expressed this with calmness and dignity. Overall, Cath is introduced to us as a character that some of us can relate to, the solitary figure, the epitome of the bookworm. However by the end of the novel, everyone is able to relate to Cath in some way, be it her increased confidence, dealing with her own mental issues, or because of the struggles of her family background.
On the surface, Wren appears to be the opposite of Cath. She’s popular, confident and a social butterfly. However, they have similarities that run deeper than on the surface. For example, although it is suppressed, she will always have a place in her heart for the Simon Snow stories. So however much Wren teases Cath about her obsession, it is undeniable that Wren too will always be more than just a normal fan. Wren also tends to have a superiority complex, but only towards Cath. She believes that she is the more experienced, knowledgeable twin in terms of how to conduct herself in social situations. This is displayed by her obvious shock whenever Cath mentions that she is improving her social life. Wren does not have this same sense of superiority towards other people, and instead tries to fit in with them as much as possible. To observe Wren against another person, such as her roommate Courtney, demonstrates that even she can get as easily annoyed as Cath by Courtney’s incessant mundane, average conversation that contains no depth. However, Wren is definitely more of a stereotypical university student than Cath. In terms of character development, the progression I particularly enjoyed with Wren was her transformation regarding relationships. She never used to invest too much into them and got bored quickly, but this changes when she meets Jandro. She admits that she is in love, and suddenly we see a much more vulnerable and softer side to Wren. Her easy going nature and willingness to embrace life with open arms is evident throughout the whole book.
Levi is my favourite character in this book. It is impossible to hate Levi. He is a constant, sunny presence that seems to light up every room he walks into. What I especially liked is the fact although Cath is attracted to Levi and does think him to be good looking, she does not describe him as though he is visually flawless, which is a common trait throughout a lot of YA novels. She describes his genuine appearance rather than being blinded by what she wants to see. Personality- wise, Levi could not be more opposite to Cath if he tried. While Cath is reserved, quiet, and a bookworm, Levi is lively, talkative and has difficulty reading. But this does not seem to matter, and the two connect. Levi can see something different in Cath that her previous boyfriend, Abel, could never see. Although unable to finish a book, Levi is a brilliant reader of people, and social situations in general. This is not to say that Levi does not make mistakes, he messes up regularly, but he owns his mistakes and does whatever he can to rectify them. I think what makes Levi‘s charisma so charming is how he does not care in the slightest what other people think of him; he does not talk negatively of other people and in return they do not judge him. His friendly, smiley persona is not the only side to Levi though, he can be serious when needs be. He is a very three dimensional character.
Despite favouring Levi, I find Cath’s roommate Reagan to be a much more relatable and realistic character. Her brutal honesty and forthright manner may be intimidating, but she is exactly what Cath needs to keep her grounded and put everything into perspective for her. Reagan provides humour in the novel, and once they get to know one another, she and Cath bounce off each other. Reagan is intelligent and easily balances her school work, relationships, social life and job. Her confidence and thirst for life is exactly what Cath aspires to possess. This is why Cath is so baffled as to why Levi is attracted to her instead of Reagan.
“No,” Cath said, “seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything”
Reagan is an interesting, direct and entertaining character, but she is so cold that I am certain that I would be a little bit scared of her if I was to know her in real life.
THANK YOU FOR READING!