Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #133: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


Holy Trinity becomes Holy Quadrinity, with the addition of Rainbow Rowell, after Fangirl. Or would Mount Rushmore sound better, since I’ve never heard anyone use the word “quadrinity” and had to first make sure it was real before I started using it? Call it whatever you like, she’s in it now. She’s to books what, for me, Breaking Bad is to television, what The Reign of Kindo are to music, what Pixar is to film, which is to say inhumanely consistent and borderline perfect. She’s three books into her career as a writer, and all three thus far have received a perfect score. Her output alone is almost enough for me to stop thinking Rainbow is a bit of a weird name. Almost. Prior to writing this, I googled how to pronounce her last name (rhymes with towel) and found out, yes, it is her given name and, yes, she did think of changing it. To what, you ask? Sarah with an H. She didn’t since thought her friends wouldn’t be able to take her seriously. I’m not so sure about that; however, I do like the alliteration.

But it’s her writing that I’m here to discuss, Fangirl in particular, so I’ll just get to it already. As I learned in trying to describe her books to my coworkers when I went about demanding they read them and pronto, you just have to read them to understand, which is why I’m not going to waste my time on a plot-focused review, not that that’s ever been my style. This is going to be more a discussion of her body of work as a whole and that singular quality that ties it all together and separates her from all her other fellow YA authors. Put as succinctly as I can manage, if an alien visited our planet wanting to learn about “love,” I would merely suggest it read Rainbow Rowell’s oeuvre. Her characters can be nothing like me personality wise, or in terms of their circumstances, and she’ll still manage to unlock my own memories of love in a manner that brings me almost to tears. She can make little things like holding hands (Eleanor & Park) or, my personal favorite, cuddling (Fangirl) sound like humankind’s entire reserve of romance being expended, like a balloon that’s been untied and begun deflating, if the gas inside were laughing gas or another gaseous substance with similarly pleasant effects. Reading her books gets me as high on love as actually being in love does.

In light of that, her name is fitting; her stories are like rainbows that you get to ride up and down like an escalator or slide. Except there’s no pot of gold at the end of these rainbows, just the sad realization that now all you have left to do is wait for the next one. Some might be moved to re-read them, but I’ve never been a big re-reader. The only books I’ve ever re-read were by accident. However, if ever an author writes a book that I feel I have to read again immediately, it will probably be her, since all her books have already been in that rare category of books it literally pains me to pull myself away from for even a second before I’m finished. My parents called me downstairs for dinner when I was about a quarter of the way through Fangirl and I couldn’t just stop there. First, I had to at least finish the chapter I was on. Then, I thought, 100’s a nice number, so let’s get as close to that as we can. I can’t tell you if my food was cold by the time I finally came downstairs, but I don’t doubt it was. Not including her previous books, I’m not sure another book has had me that enraptured since, ironically, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which remains my favorite entry in both series, book and film.

Another sign that she’s not your average author is she can be predictable and it won’t affect my opinion of her or the book at all. I knew right away approximately how things were going to end between Cath and the two guys in her life, Levi and Nick, yet Rainbow makes it seem like it couldn’t have gone any other way, one of the hallmarks of a great writer. And in the cases where she does eschew the more predictable route, the one I was secretly hoping for all along, I can’t stay mad at her for long. Like inEleanor & Park; she denied her readers a proper happy ending, instead choosing one that was more open-ended and bittersweet. Normally, I would be bitter about such a move, but how can I stay mad at Rainbow? Her books are so much like old friends, so welcoming, that it doesn’t feel right to call her by her full name, or just by her surname. That can also be chalked up to her being such a fangirl herself for her own fans. Her and Neil Gaiman both embrace the online community in a way that few authors do. Neither of them will hesitate to reblog, retweet, re-whatever your reviews, fan-art, etc. Rainbow, in particular, feels like she genuinely loves her fans as sincerely as her fans love her.

Now if only she’ll start having two releases per-annum, like Pixar keeps teasing yet never following through on, I will have no more left to ask of her. The wait, as always, is killing me, especially with as attention-grabbing a concept as Landline, her first foray outside of YA fiction, has. Or maybe she can start selling the rights to all her books, that way we can get our Rainbow fix at the movie theater too. Imagine a David Yates directed adaptation of Fangirl. People hate on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince regularly for its teen angst, whereas that’s part of why it’s my favorite. They are teenagers, they will experience some (fleeting) love and angst, and Yates and crew handled it in a fun and light-hearted way. Give them Fangirl, a book with obvious roots in the Harry Potter fandom, and I think the result would be glorious. They probably wouldn’t even have to look beyond their Harry Potter contacts for the cast, since many of the roles are perfect for the Harry Potter alums. Rainbow herself approved of a fan-casting involving Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), if I remember correctly. Although, I doubt even that would be enough Rainbow to keep me satiated, or that there is such a thing as enough. So I’ll just keep it reasonable and hope that Landline comes out early next year, though even that sounds too far away.

Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.

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