The weirdest thing about reading a novel by Steve Martin…
That really sums up Fangirl, the book that was the biggest disappointment for me this year.
Maybe I put too much pressure on Fangirl. I had high expectations considering everyone was praising it and it comes from Rainbow Rowell, the author behind Eleanor & Park, one of the best books I read this year. I assumed Fangirl couldn’t be bad because Eleanor & Park was so good, but Fangirl isn’t. It’s so incredibly boring.
The fangirl from the title is Cath, a college freshman and Simon Snow fanatic. Simon Snow is basically the Harry Potter of this world, and Cath is obsessed. She writes popular fanfiction where Harry (uh, Simon) is in love with Draco (I mean, Baz). Cath has been writing this fanfiction for years, and her freshman year of college is no different. A large portion of this book involves Cath writing fanfiction in her dorm room, some of which we get to read.
Cath is also dealing with some other things during her freshman year, like the hard time she’s having being apart from her twin, Wren. Wren decided that she wanted to be more independent in college, so she pulls away from Cath, lives in a different dorm, and actually hangs out with other people, something Cath doesn’t really do. Why, oh why, couldn’t we follow Wren?
It’s only because of pity that we finally see Cath hang out with some people, her roommate and her roommate’s friend. For the first month (or so?) of school, her roommate thinks Cath has an eating disorder because she never leaves the room to eat. Cath is afraid of going to the cafeteria alone and has been surviving on protein bars. Pitying her, her roommate brings her down to the cafeteria and their friendship begins. Fascinating stuff.
The problem with Fangirl is that there really isn’t anything that happens, though there was plenty of opportunity for something to happen. Cath has some family issues, she gets accused of plagiarizing, her sister drinks too much, and her friend has a learning disability. Had these things not been glossed over or quickly resolved they could’ve made for an interesting story, but they play out as small tidbits next to Cath and her fanfiction.
Maybe I have to actually be a fanfiction aficionado to like this book, but I don’t read fanfiction and I have no desire to start. It seems to be very important to Cath, so much so that she doesn’t want to write stories unless they include her beloved Simon and Baz. This is all fine and good, but is someone writing fanfiction enough to sustain a story? Not for me.
This just felt like a really long Archie comic. Oh, no! Archie got an F on a paper? He’ll fix it by working harder. Oh, no! Jughead is having problems reading? Archie can help! Oh, no! Reggie is partying too much? If only he’d listen to sweet, innocent Archie. Oh no! Betty and Veronica are fighting over a boy? It’ll be okay because their friendship means more. Archie comics are okay in short form, when you need a nice little story, but as a whole book you realize how well-mannered, safe, and boring they are, just like Fangirl.