Let's face it: we're all busy people. Who has time these days to slog through line after line of single spaced, philosophical, unapproachable or even plotless novels? Especially as February winds down and I'm ridiculously impatient for spring, I crave a can't-put-down-er. But nothing I have to think about too hard--no crime novel thrillers, please. I want characters I can love, writing I can get into and a book that'll keep me wanting to read when it's below freezing outside and my bed awaits. Which brings me to February's Book of the Month--Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl. Now, I know Fangirl is old hat to the teen blogging circuit. What can I say? I knew about it and wanted to read it, but put off searching for a copy--see earlier sentence about busy (or maybe just lazy) people. So, if you're like me--read about Fangirl but never took the time to read the book itself (or just in the market for a good read)--consider this post your wakeup call. Fangirl is worth the library trip.
The plot centers around anxiety-riddled college freshman Cath (don't call her Cather) and her obsession with the Simon Snow franchise (think Harry Potter with a vampire nemesis instead of just a pale one)--mostly, her obsession with writing fan-fiction about the two main characters. At first, Cath isn't having a great time at college--she's anti-social, she has no friends and she hasn't spoken to her cooler twin, who's out partying every night, or her single dad, who's descending into mania without his daughters around to keep him grounded, in weeks. But by being herself, Cath finds new friends and even new love at college, strengthening and building family relationships along the way.
Well, writing that plot paragraph kind of made me want to puke. The plot of Fangirl, outlined simply, invites cliches with open arms. In fact, as I read it, I kept bracing myself for them. It's literally about an antisocial teenager discovering a beautiful new community of friends--I think my fears were justified. But the cliches never came. Maybe it was because of the updated element the fan-fiction plot lended to this classic Cinderella storyline. But it was also Rowell's incredibly approachable writing style. Rowell had a way of commanding Cath's narrative so that she sounded like someone I could be friends with. Cath had every human insecurity possible--but not to the point of annoyance. She had friends who were really great characters, who I wanted to hang with--but not the the point of unbelievability. Cath was kind of perfect--except that she had so many imperfections. Rowell's writing mimicked life so well, it was like a transcript of someone's thoughts--with the wrinkles ironed out and a book cover slapped on.
To be honest, I was grateful to Fangirl. It feels so good to be reading--really reading--to be the annoying friend reading at lunch, to read on the subway rather than staring into space, to be able to pick up a book and not have to worry about not understanding it or being scared. I loved being caught up in the realism and love that abounded within Fangirl, loved reading something inviting, entertaining and satisfying. We're tired and it's cold out--let's give ourselves a break.