This review is going to be much gushier and incoherent than usual. Noted? … Okay, let’s go.
Blurb from Goodreads:
Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university and Wren’s decided she doesn’t want to be one half of a pair any more – she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It’s not so easy for Cath. She would rather bury herself in the fanfiction she writes where there’s romance far more intense than anything she’s experienced in real life.
Now Cath has to decide whether she’s ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she’s realizing that there’s more to learn about love than she ever thought possible …
A tale of fanfiction, family, and first love.
I’m still in two minds about this book. I’ve heard a lot of great things about this and have heard so many readers gushing and raving about it.
Despite that, I must confess that I went into the book with lower expectations; You might have not known this side of me, but I have a weird tendency of NOT wanting to be one of those people who just do things just because everyone else is doing it. To put in a nutshell, I don’t basically gravitate toward overly hyped books/things and this Fangirl exactly falls into the category, hence my hesitation about reading this.
Having finished listening to this audiobook, I can honestly say, Rainbow Rowell did it again. She won over my heart again.
For the overall storyline, I’d give this book solid 3.5 or 3.75 out of 5 stars; NOT solid 4 let alone 5 stars. Not even close. YET for the romance part, my goodness, this book melted my heart (you might guess I’m a sucker for this type of slow-burned romance) and straight 5 stars go to this book.
I personally found the whole romance progression quite beautiful and breathtaking.
This is exactly what happened to me when I read ‘Landline’ last year; When a male character – the love interest – in Rainbow Rowell’s books speaks, the words grab my heart. I often feel like I’m spellbound. This book was no exception; I was literally under the spell of Levi’s words. Funny thing is that, I don’t even particularly love Levi, he’s way too skinny and lanky for my liking but I love HIS WORDS. I just love what he says, what’s coming out of his mouth and how he embraces and appreciates Cath as she is.
His words are simple but have something that has my heart in its clutches. Simply captivating and I couldn’t get enough of it. I kept going back to his words over and over and over again. Hypnotic. Like magic. Rainbow Rowell did it again – made me fall in love with Levi just like she did with Neal from Landline.
Now, let’s talk about the characters. I think most of the characters are well fleshed out and their emotions are well-drawn. In particular, I could absolutely relate to Cath’s restlessness from being a ‘misfit’ in college and the dorm, the fear of not blending in. Her concerns and trepidations, the weird sense of incongruity she has when she wakes up in her dormitory bed – they are vividly depicted and executed and brought back my memories when I was in junior college. It was really well done.
The character dynamics, especially the relationship (friendship) between Reagan is such a delight to read. I love her. She’s straightforward, brusque, calling a spade a spade yet is kind at heart; I loved to see how Reagan kind of forcibly drags Cath into her world and lets Cath accustom to the new environment, and how she forges a friendship between Cath.
To be perfectly honest, and this might be an unpopular opinion, but I didn’t particularly LOVED Cath. There are several things that stopped me from rooting for Cath, in fact.
For one; She is naive and immature. It is kind of hard to talk about this without giving much away, but she is afraid of ‘change’ and wants to stay in her own small, confined world – her bubble. This part of her gradually changes through the interactions with Reagan and Levi, but I felt it a bit hard to get invested in Cath’s character in the beginning.
What really irked me is her naivety that is showcased through the dialogue with Professor Piper. If you have read this, you’ll know what I am talking about and yes, I was so fed up with Cath’s lame excuses and logic. Writing fan fiction is totally fine with me, but what she does in this segment is NOT something to be condoned and it frustrated me so much.
Secondly, she is so quick to decide to drop things. She tries to get away from things once she finds it doesn’t belong to her or not her thing. Although she no doubt has a distinct ‘Voice’ in her writing that speaks to the readers, she adamantly refuses to give what she’s supposed to a try.
She has THE VOICE that any writers or creators desperately crave for but she is all willing to let it go without even giving it a try. She says she doesn’t want to. Again, I was quite frustrated by this side of her, and it took me a while to warm up to her (not fully, but to some extent).
That said though, her mounting feelings toward Levi and how she gets drowned in it was incredibly well-delineated and it literally captured my heart. I DEVOURED the words that Rainbow Rowell weaves. Again, it felt like magic. Stunningly beautiful and delicious.
My impression toward Cath is redeemed by the development in the latter part, and I personally found it quite clever. I am glad to see how it plays out and am content with that.
Other characters are all vivid and funny to get to know; Cath’s Dad is my second favorite character; I liked how he is bruised and flawed, yet is funny and chirpy at the same time. He brightens up the world for me.
As for the plot, I found it interesting that Rainbow Rowell writes a story involving a flawed, wounded family; each family members is more or less bruised by the traumatic experience of having their wife/mother walk out of their lives. But their struggles, especially Wren’s struggles were not heartfelt. Although there are strong moments where Cath gushes out her pent-up emotions about their estranged, biological mother, I felt this element a bit weak. For that reason, Wren’s issue that comes to light in the latter part might have been the author’s attempt to display the damage what Wren was inflicted on, but it didn’t strike me as strong as the author might have intended. Wren seemed quite standoffish, frivolous and distant for the most part of the story -intentionally distances herself from Cath but later comes back to her saying she has never stopped reading the story Cath uploaded. It felt a bit abrupt because I thought Wren’s character arc and the reason why she acts the way she does are not well drawn, at least for me.
Nonetheless, once again, there’s a redeeming scene for her and I am happy with how it plays out.
The fan fiction part… or the inserts at the end of each chapter was honestly a bit too much for me. Some of them could have been cut, but given how this whole fan fiction thing works out for the romance part I absolutely LOVE, I, once again, have a mixed-feeling about this. I cannot decide what to make of this.
But overall, Yes, I enjoyed reading/listening to this audiobook. The narrator did an amazing job of employing different tones of voices for each character and elevating the romance scenes to absolutely beautiful, captivating and enchanting ones.
Like I said, had it not been for this delectable, heart-tingling romance part, this book would have gotten solid 3.5 stars. But Levi’s words (not himself) made the book for me and I loved how their romance develops and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole package.
If you haven’t read or listened to this book, I recommend you pick this up; this book has become one of my favorites.
Not mind-blowing, but enchanting. I gave this audiobook 4 out of 5 stars.