I have some friends with reservations about Fangirl, and then there’s lots of people who think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. It took me a while to read it because of that, but I think on balance I like it a lot. The primary thing I enjoy is that it involves neuroatypical people; Cath’s anxiety, her dad’s bipolar, Wren’s potential alcoholism. It feels true to life in the way the twins grow apart and come back together, in the way university life works. I’ve totally been with Cath, eating energy bars instead of finding the cafeteria, talking to people online instead of going out and enjoying the fun.
One thing that does bother me is the characters who try to drag Cath out of herself like it’s that easy. Reagan mentions medication once, but after that there’s no indication that Cath gets therapy or any kind of substantive help with her issues. She’s just kind of friended-and-boyfriended out of it to a large extent, which — I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but when I was in Cath’s position, it took medication and therapy as well as the friends.
Also, Levi’s “nice guy” thing was just — ick. I mean, in many ways he seems like a genuinely nice guy, but then he admits he was doing the whole nice guy thing to try and get Cath to date him. And he wouldn’t respect her wishes about her name or letting her carry her own damn laundry, so how I’m supposed to believe he respected her about anything else, I’m not entirely sure. You’re not such a nice guy if you’re trying to be a nice guy to make a girl like you, you know? And that aspect didn’t fit with the rest of Levi, who seemed too good to be true in many ways — the kind of guy who rescues kittens from trees and helps old ladies cross the road.
Anyway, most of the scenes between Levi and Cath are really well done: early awkwardness, the slow evolution of their relationship, even the misunderstandings — which normally really annoy me in romantic stories. I did feel that their relationship was real, even if Levi himself was a little too good to be true.
I do still really like the way Rowell writes; it’s really easy to just settle into, nothing pretentiously getting in the way of reading it, nothing trying to be too flowery. And the excerpts of fanfiction and “Gemma Leslie”‘s work made me smile; Rowell does understand fandom, as was also clear when I went to her talk/signing, and she gets the comfort and excitement of that online community just right.