“You don’t do magic,” she said, trying to smile modestly and mostly succeeding. “You are magic.”
My annual reread of Fangirl has been completed (2 years and going), and it just gets better and better.
Sometimes, on a gray day, I flip through this book to cheer myself up or to remind myself that everything will be okay. And it does its job every single time, which I’m more than grateful for. It’s like a consolation, an old friend, a favorite old, comfy sweater. Fangirl is everything.
And because of its importance to me, it’s my most reread novel and I love it through and through.
This follows Cath through her freshman year at the University of Nebraska, along with her much more outgoing identical twin sister Wren. But Cath is having a hard time adjusting to college.
This review contains *spoilers*.
But thanks to her writing fanfiction to a dedicated book series – following the adventures of Simon and Baz – she manages ‘to disappear.’ To get free of herself, to make people laugh, to stop being anything or anywhere at all.
As I mentioned at the start of my review, Fangirl is very near and dear to my heart. I reread it at least once a year, and could probably quote passages of it by heart (which I’m pretty proud of). It introduced me to a new world that I consider to be like a second family.
Rainbow Rowell came up with such fantastic characters and the dynamics between all of them blows me away every time.
Like, it physically hurts trying to stop smiling when Cath and Levi or Cath and Reagan have a scene together.
And I, of course, have to feature one of my favorite interactions between Cath and Reagan:
“You’re making me feel sorry for you again,” Reagan said.
Cath turned her fork on Reagan. “Don’t feel sorry for me. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me.”
“I can’t help it,” Reagan said. “You’re really pathetic.”
“I am not.”
“You are. You don’t have any friends, your sister dumped you, you’re a freaky eater … And you’ve got some weird thing about Simon Snow.”
“I object to every single thing you just said.”
I can totally see why Cath and Reagan hit it off.
Oh, and since I happened to mention Levi (so casually), I will just say that he is one the sweetest character I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. I mean, I actually felt homesick the first time I finished reading Fangirl because I couldn’t believe I was done. I missed Levi for weeks (and rereading it only made it that more painful).
The first time Cath read to Levi has and always will be ingrated into my heart:
“Levi laughed, and she tried to grab her pillow from him. He held it to his chest with both hands. “Cather…”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Read me some of your secret, dirty fanfiction.”
“It’s not dirty.”
“Read me some anyway.”
She let go of the pillow; he’d probably already filthed it beyond redemption.
“Because I’m curious,” he said. “And I like stories.”
“You just want to make fun of me.”
“I won’t,” he said. “I promise.”
And then to top it off, Levi used one of my favorite expressions— “To be continued.”
“Come on.” Reagan turned to Levi. “Plant Phys. Are we doing this?”
“We’re doing it,” he grumbled, sliding off Cath’s bed. “Can I use your phone?” he asked her.
Cath handed him her phone, and he punched a number in. His back pocket started playing a Led Zeppelin song. “To be continued,” he said, handing it back to her. “Solid?”
“Sure,” Cath said.”
And Levi being Levi, he kept his promise to Cath and gave me one of the most memorable book scenes of all time:
“Cath shuffled the pages with her thumb.… It really was a short book. With tons of dialogue.
She looked up at Levi. The sun was setting behind her, and he was sitting in a wash of orange light.
Cath turned her chair toward the bed, knocking his feet without warning to the ground. Then she rested her own feet on the bed frame and took off her glasses, tucking them in her hair. “‘When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house—’”
“Cath,” Levi whispered. She felt her chair wobble and knew he was kicking it. “You don’t have to do that.”
“Obviously,” she said. “‘When I stepped out into the bright sunlight—’”
She cleared her throat, still focused on the book. “Shut up, I owe you one. At least one. And also, I’m trying to read here.…”
It hurts so good. They are my sun and stars.
“It was really late. And too dark in the room to be reading this much. Cath’s voice was rough now, like someone had run a dull knife across it. Like she was recovering from a cold or a crying jag.
At some point Levi had put his left arm around her and pulled her back against his chest—she’d been fidgeting and rubbing her back on the wall, and Levi just reached behind her and pulled her into him.”
I’ve read this scene so many times, and it still gives me chills. I honestly needed a minute to slow down my heart. And my stomach—too many damn butterflies.
“You okay?” he asked.
She nodded again. And then she felt him slowly moving. “Here…”
Levi slid down the wall onto the bed, resting on his side, then tugged Cath down so she was lying on her back in front of him—his arm beneath her head like a pillow. She relaxed her shoulders and felt warm flannel against the back of her neck.
“Better?” he asked in his superscript voice. He was looking at her face. Giving Cath a chance to say no without having to say it out loud. She didn’t speak. Or nod. Or answer. Instead she looked down and shifted slightly toward him onto her side, leaning the book against his chest.
She started reading again, and felt Levi’s elbow curve around her shoulder.”
I’m literally sweating because of them.
“Cath closed the book and let it fall on Levi’s chest, not sure what happened next. Not sure she was awake, all things considered.
The moment it fell, he pulled her into him. Onto him. With both arms. Her chest pressed against his, and the paperback slid between their stomachs.
Cath’s eyes were half closed, and so were Levi’s—and his lips only looked small from afar, she realized, because of their doll-like pucker. They were perfectly big, really, now that she had a good look at them. Perfectly something.
He nudged his nose against hers, and their mouths fell sleepily together, already soft and open.”
Help, is it physically possible to love a fictional relationship this much??Source
And I could go on and on about him, but I think it’s best (for my heart) if I quietly move on to my next couple of favorites moments and people.
The first being: Magicath and Wrenegade.
I just wanted to mention how truly great the close bond they had with one another was:
“On nights like that, Cath could always go downstairs and keep writing on her dad’s computer if she really wanted to—but she didn’t like to cross Wren. They listened to each other when they wouldn’t listen to anyone else.”
I love the last sentence so much because it perfectly describes how they have each other’s back.
“I’m like him,” she’d whispered.
“You’re not,” Wren said.
“I am. I’m crazy like him.” She was already having panic attacks. She was already hiding at parties. In seventh grade, she’d been late to class for the first two weeks because she couldn’t stand being in the halls with everyone else during passing periods. “It’s probably going to get worse in a few years. That’s when it usually kicks in.”
“You’re not,” Wren said.
“But what if I am?”
“Decide not to be.”
“That’s not how it works,” Cath argued.
“Nobody knows how it works.”
“What if I don’t even see it coming?”
“I’ll see it coming.”
Cath tried to stop crying, but she’d been crying so long, the crying had taken over, making her breathe in harsh sniffs and jerks.
“If it tries to take you,” Wren said, “I won’t let go.”
This really hit home for me. Everything Cath said and did is something I’ve said or done before. And it scares me to no end.
So I really appreciated when Cath had Wren to talk to. The way Wren had her made my heart soar.Source
Also, I want to briefly mention the girl in the library because she was a literal angel. I think about her at least once a day:
“Magicath is my absolute favorite,” the girl interrupted, like she couldn’t hold it back. “I’m obsessed with Carry On. Have you been keeping up?”
“She’s been posting so much lately. Every time there’s a new chapter, I have to stop everything to read it. And then read it again. My roommate thinks I’m crazy.”
“But it’s just so good. Nobody writes Simon and Baz like Magicath. I’m in love with her Baz. Like, in love. And I used to be a major Simon/Agatha shipper.”
Cath wrinkled her nose. “No.”
“I know, I was young.”
I’m smiling so much, it hurts.
“It killed me how long it took Simon and Baz to get together. And now I’m dying for them to have a big love scene. That’s my only complaint about Carry On—not enough Simon/Baz action.”
“She almost never writes love scenes,” Cath said, feeling her cheeks pink.
“Yeah, but when she does, they’re hot.”
“Um,” the girl laughed. “Yes.”
“This is why people think we’re crazy perverts,” Cath said.
The girl just giggled some more. “I know. Sometimes I forget that there’s still a real book coming out—like, it’s hard for me to imagine that the story is going to end any other way than the way Magicath writes it.”
I just love that girl so much because she perfectly describes how I feel.
And, funnily enough, the first time I read this book I wasn’t expecting it to be so hilarious. Fangirl, while still handling really important issues, has such an impeccable sense of humor. There’s this one instance in particular that I love because I can’t help but crack up every time I read it:
“And besides, Cath still wasn’t sure whether Nick was actually hot or whether he just projected hotness. Specifically in her direction.
Someone sat down next to her on the bench, and Cath glanced up from her phone. Nick tilted his chin up in greeting.
“Think of the devil,” she said, then wished she hadn’t.
“You thinking about me?”
“I was thinking … of the devil,” Cath said stupidly.”
Like, is this not me??
And on a completely unrelated note, I know I said I was done talking about Levi, but I have to mention this scene from their first date because reasons:
“She stepped away from him, and he took her hand. “Wait,” he said. “I think there might be an evergreen over there—”
Cath looked up.
“False alarm,” he said, squeezing her hand.
“Are you cold?”
She shook her head.
He squeezed her hand again. “Good.”
He is so damn smooth. I mean, his game is on.
Rainbow Rowell wrote their relationship so well that even I felt nervous whenever Levi touched her hand.
“You’re not all hands…,” he whispered later. He was tucked back into the corner of the love seat, and she was resting on top of him. She’d spent hours on top of him. Curled over him like a vampire. Even exhausted, she couldn’t stop rubbing her numb lips into his flannel chest. “You’re all mouth,” he said.
“Sorry,” Cath said, biting her lips.
“Don’t be stupid,” he said, pulling her lips free of her teeth with his thumb. “And don’t be sorry … ever again.”
He hitched her up, so her face was above his. Her eyes wandered down to his chin, out of habit. “Look at me,” he said.
Cath looked up. At Levi’s pastel-colored face. Too lovely, too good.
“I like you here,” he said, squeezing her. “With me.”
She smiled, and her eyes started to drift downward.
Back up to his eyes.
“You know that I’m falling in love with you, right?”
I totally smiled a Levi smile at this part. My stomach was wringing itself out every time Cath and Levi had a scene together.Source
I also loved that Reagan gave Cath and Levi ground rules because same:
“What are the ground rules?”
Reagan held up a finger. Her nails were long and pink.
“One. Nobody talks to me about sex.”
“Two, no lovey-dovey stuff in front of me.”
“Done and done. I’m telling you, there is no lovey-dovey stuff.”
“Three, shut up, nobody talks to me about their relationship.”
Cath nodded. “Fine.”
“You’ve really been thinking about this, haven’t you?”
I’m honestly 100% Reagan in this situation. And I aspire to reach her level of coolness. Reagan wasn’t anybody’s fool.
I just love everyone in this world so damn much. I was rooting for everyone, and it makes me feel incredibly sad whenever I reach the end of Fangirl. I was in such a haze while reading it, it’s like everything surrounding me disappeared into oblivion. This book has my heart and soul.
And I mean, I don’t know Rainbow Rowell but I trust her. She somehow makes me love Fangirl in a new way every time I reread it, and I’m so grateful.
I also kept looking for the perfect way to describe how deeply personal this book feels, and I finally found it:
“You can tell a book is real when your heart beats faster. Real books make you sweat. Cry, if no one is looking. Real books help you make sense of your crazy life. Real books tell it true, don’t hold back, and make you stronger. But most of all, real books give you hope. Because it’s not always going to be like this and books—the good ones, the real ones—show you how to make it better. Now.”
—Laurie Halse Anderson
5/5 stars (without a doubt)