If you’re scared about change, about leaving home or growing apart from your family, then you’ll relate to the lamenting Cather…
I can understand why people rave about this novel; it strikes at the heart of every bookworm. Cather, the protagonist, is the quintessential introvert, hiding from life behind her twin sister, her father, her guilt and anger from her mother’s abandonment, and most of all, her fanfiction. The concept of ‘Fangirl’ resonated with me personally, as a writer, because it shows how much creative people retreat into an imaginary world in order to escape or protect ourselves from the harsh realities in the world around us. Rainbow Rowell sketches strong characters that are scared and flawed with beautiful innocence. Although I didn’t fall in love with the book, I certainly rave about what it explores.
Completing the novel in a day, it was definitely an easy yet compelling read. I was a little bored towards the end when Cather’s internal monologue began to get annoying – but that was the worst of my experience. The paring of Cather and her love interest Levi was refreshingly unique from many other YA counterparts in that, even with the drama of their story, an innate calm and steady element underlined this development. It lent a ‘safe’ quality in Levi which readers will find attractive. Personally, I didn’t swoon, it lacked that epic romance feel; instead, like the main character, the pace built gently – understated and ultimately comfortable.
The best way I can sum up the characters is by posing the question – how do you deal with despair? Because that is basically what happens in various ways and with different outcomes. It was raw and honest without being preachy. Cather starts University with her twin sister Wren; however Wren breaks out on her own forcing Cather to find her own identity. Which is difficult when your are constantly being compared to your prettier, more outgoing sister… who happens to look exactly like you! The problem is: Cather doesn’t want to grow up, doesn’t want to be on her own, doesn’t want to change. She retreats into her room and writing Simon Snow fanfiction (a wave at the Harry Potter craze). Cather is the sensible, responsible one, picking up the pieces of her Fathers manic episodes, while Wren is the rebel who drinks, parties and has boyfriends.
We begin to see how the reclusive Cather is challenged through her roommate, Reagan and Reagan’s ex-boyfriend Levi. She deals with the new obstacles as every writer does – through her fanfiction and withdrawing into her thoughts. Its safe there, familiar, and doesn’t make demands.
It is about the inevitable journey Cather must go through to find her own voice. – If you missed that the Simon Snow fanfiction is a representation of her childhood and how the Professor encouraging her to write something else is a parallel for Cather stepping out of her sister’s shadow to find her own identity apart from Wren, I’m going to roll my eyes at you. :p
Elements I loved about the book include the gay theme to Cather’s fandom writing, shedding a light on the GLBT community. Also, the novel deals with the subject of Copyright and Plagiarism, challenging the concept that fanfiction resides in the grey area of intellectual property versus the concept of where ideas come from.
I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to an alternative to the dystopian or paranormal fiction monopolizing the market at the moment. A great way to spend a weekend snuggled in your favorite chair and a mug of hot chocolate.
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