Dear Ms. Rowell,
I am writing to you today about Fangirl.
More precisely, I am writing to you to suggest that perhaps you would like to send me a check for the cover price of $18.99, as I am not satisfied with your novel and feel that you should–as a matter of conscience–send a full refund.
No, I do not wish to send the book to you. I need to keep that, as it is mineminemine and you may have it when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
Instead, I think you need to send me $18.99 so that I can use that money to buy another book (TBD) to keep me company while you finish writing the rest of this one and overnight it to me.
Now, I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to attempt to argue that the story you meant to tell is complete–that we have followed Cath to college, met her quirky roommate, watched her fumble through her first year of classes, learned about her challenges dealing with her father, seen her stand up for herself, sympathized with her fears, pitied her abrupt and not entirely voluntary detachment from her twin sister, empathized with her embarrassment about being a writer of fanfic (because really, who doesn’t have that one ultra-nerdy thing they do and don’t exactly want to brag about despite really, really loving it?), and blessed her fuzzy heart as she floundered through relationships with all the grace of a dying…well, flounder.
You will suggest that the end of Cath’s freshman year is a logical end-point for a book like this one, and that she has had her epiphanies and learned some important lessons. You will say that she has had plenty of experiences for one year, what with the moving away and learning the rules of a new place and having her integrity called into question and being used and figuring out what to do when you’ve been used. You will argue that the various story arcs have run their course, and landed where they are meant to land.
And besides, you will say, the book has already considered–in a lighthearted, not flippant but not ponderous and weighty either, sort of way–all sorts of issues: about identity, who we are and who we think we are and who other people think we are; and about art, what is “real” art and what is “lesser” art and who it is that gets to judge what counts as “successful” art; and about relationships, how we decide what sort of relationships are worth having and worth keeping and worth exploring and how we don’t decide any of these things in a vacuum. And that, you will say, is probably plenty for one novel. Especially one that’s meant to stay more-or-less generally playful.
But you know what, Ms. Rowell? You are wrong.
You are not finished with this story, because Cath is not dead–Cath is not even close to dead–so you’ve got like 80 more years to tell. Heck, Cath hasn’t even finished college yet. What happens during her sophomore year, Ms. Rowell? Or her junior year? What does she do for her graduation celebration?
And don’t think I don’t see that it’s a little bit on the meta side, what you’ve done there: you’ve told the story of the first year of a person’s education, and drawn some tidy parallels to other stories about people’s first years in new schools–the sort of other stories that inspired movies and fan clubs and online fan fiction and midnight release parties and the like–and then you’ve stopped, because these sorts of books always end at the end of the school year. So I’m willing to forgive you for that.
But at the time of the writing of this blog, I do not currently have any indication that you are planning to make this into a series, and therefore this is all we get of this story.
If you are wondering whether I agree with that plan…well, then you’ve not been reading very closely, I suppose. Which is unfortunate. But to be very clear: no, no I do not agree with it.
Therefore, please send me $18.99 so that I may purchase some other book to read to keep myself occupied while you dash off another 400 pages or so on this one. I will look forward to your prompt reply.
Yours most sincerely,
TL;DR: Rainbow Rowell has managed to write yet another delightful, quirky, and utterly charming book, this one centering around Cath, a college freshman who also happens to be one of the most popular writers of fan fiction about Simon Snow (a character not entirely unlike Harry Potter). While I did not at any point cry during this novel, I did laugh out loud a couple of times and I spent….lordy, easily a full quarter to third of it in full swoon. Buffaloes do not swoon. So I admit: she got me good with this one. Sheesh.
Rating: 8/10 Muddy Hoofprints. This book is unlikely to revolutionize your life. If it gives you pause to think about some questions about identity, art, etc, or a chance to reminisce and feel a little nostalgic about your college days, then good on you–but really, it’s mostly just a delicious, utterly enjoyable way to pass some time. Also, I think one of the characters is ultra-hawt (no spoilers for you! You go ‘way. Besides, it’s easier to think dreamy thoughts about him if you’re not intruding).