Contemporary · Romance · Selective Collective · YA

The Selective Collective: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Our September pick:

For Rainbow’s latest we are hosting the roundtable discussion.

1.  Cath is sort of a big deal in the fan fiction world.  Do you read/write fan fiction?  Why do you think Cath is not only obsessed with her fan fiction but the fact that Simon and Baz need to be a couple?

I admit that there were a couple of years when I actively read Harry Potter fanfiction. I think I was trying to get a sense of what it was like in the Harry Potter fandom while the books were coming out, since I read the series after “Deathly Hallows” was released but before the final two movies came out. It was incredible to read how many millions of words of fanfiction existed for every single kind of fan of the book, from those who wanted to read “missing moments” to those who wished the Epilogue didn’t exist and created their own endings. What I’ve learned from reading fanfiction (and I’m seriously a “canon” girl, at least when it comes to Ron and Hermione), is that there are serious, serious, serious fans of every ship imaginable, so I found Cath’s Simon/Baz love completely believable. I can also see why Cath wanted to race the official final book to the punch, because in her mind Simon and Baz did love each other; and she wanted to give them an ending she thought they deserved, since she feared Gemma T. Leslie wouldn’t redeem Baz.Sandie @ Teen Lit Rocks

I actually read A LOT of fanfiction after HP ended and again after Twilight ended.  I do remember tending to read the same type of fanfiction, like for HP, it was mostly Ron & Hermione related and for Twilight, I had a thing for fanfic where they are all human, for some odd reason.  I can understand why Cath would want to revisit the same basic relationship over and over because when we’re reading and we feel that certain people should be together, we try to validate that by seeking out the types of fanfiction where our hopes can be realized. Daphne @ Gone Pecan

I kind of LOVED the fact that a) Cath was a big deal in the fanfiction world and that b) this was a book that actually made it kind of cool. When I got out of grad school I started reading/writing it a lot… so I felt this helped me totally connect with Cath. I don’t read it or write it anymore – I’m behind with “real” books as it is! – but I think there are some really fantastic fanfiction out there that absolutely should be read. I think for anyone who writes, whether it be professionally or as a hobby, it can become an obsession. But with fanfiction it becomes a whole new ball game. There’s a sense of community and instant feedback on what you’re writing. I’ll admit, getting to hear “this is awesome!” about something you created on a daily basis feels pretty good. So for Cath, I think this sense of community and praise has replaced her real life… and has become her obsession. As for why Simon and Baz need to be a couple… I’m not entirely sure. I’m assuming within the Simon Snow series there is some type of connection between these two characters that really spoke to Cath. Sometimes when we read books we want things to happen, whether they do or not. For Cath, writing fanfiction was her opportunity to make what she wanted to happen happen. — Candice @ The Grown Up YA

2.  Levi bends over backwards to be nice, include, and help Cath out in several situations.  Why do you think it took her so long to see that he was showing an interest in her?  What was the moment that you felt “FINALLY!” whether it be Levi or Cath?

I think sometimes it’s so hard to see the situation–romantic or otherwise–when you’re standing on the inside.  As the reader, I thought Levi’s actions were pretty clear early on (hello, adorable crush!), but Cath, mistakenly believing he’s attached to Reagan, easily brushes those actions aside, assuming he’s just polite or that he’s being nice because she’s his girlfriend’s roommate. Maybe it’s just human nature to assume the person you like doesn’t return your affection, especially when that person seems out of reach or unattainable. Either way, the big YES! moment for me was when Cath read The Outsiders to Levi. There was such intimacy there–Levi sharing his struggle and Cath as the person who’s able to help. I loved that without kissing there was intensity and sweetness, all with little more than a book (because books are sexy, people) and some very innocent snuggling. To me, it was such an interesting place for Cath because she still believed Levi was Regan’s boyfriend, but she did it (something and nothing all at the same time) anyway.Tee @ YA Crush

Cath assumed Levi was in a somewhat complicated open relationship with Reagan that she neither understood nor asked about at any point. Given her assumption, it’s easy to see why she interpreted Levi’s flirtatious charm as just that, a dizzying universal charm that he seemed to exhibit with everyone. That’s why I love that conversation where she tells him she didn’t think she was special, because he was so nice to everyone. I agree with Tammy that the big initial moment was when she read The Outsiders to him all night, but I think the moment she FINALLY realized just how desperately in love she was with him is later, when he says “see you in nine days,” because she is so single-mindedly focused on the fanfic. I thought it was pretty swoon-worthy when he says “I choose you over everyone.” I’m fairly certain pretty powerful wedding vows could be strung together from Rainbow Rowell’s various best lines! — Sandie @ Teen Lit Rocks

3.  Cath is a having a hard time adjusting to college life and leaving behind the closeness of her relationships with her (twin) sister and father. What do you think is holding her back so much?  

I think that for so long Cath’s life revolved around her father and sister which made it difficult for her to open up to others.  Even her old boyfriend was really just a comfortable friend. There was no deep connection between them.  She also played the role of caretaker for her family.  She was always ready to help her sister when she needed it.  She also cared for her father through his mental illness. So now she’s in college and doesn’t have her sister and father to worry about on a daily basis. To top it all off, she’s perfectly content spending her free time writing fan fiction.  None of this is very conducive to being a “social butterfly.”  In fact, she seems to suffer anxiety regarding social situations. So at first, she has no interest in meeting anyone new; she prefers the comfort of the familiar. As time goes on, she steps out of her comfort zone, with Levi and Regan’s help and is able to have new experiences. — Diana @ Teen Lit Rocks

As a fellow introvert, I can say that I completely understand her need to be around people she knows, who she doesn’t have to be “on” for, who understand her and she doesn’t have to be nice to.  Communicating with people I don’t know is very exhausting for me. I’m very self-conscious and and there is a wall I have around new people.  I can see me doing the same thing as Cath, walking around campus or holing in up the library in order to avoid interacting with Reagan and possibly Levi (more Levi, because Reagan would not be as exhausting) by going back to the dorm room.  It’s not that something is holding her back so much as the fact that she just doesn’t have it in her.  Her fantasy world of Baz and Simon is comfortable, and though she does feel expectations from her readers, she’s still anonymous in that world, which is the very best thing to be for an introvert. Daphne @ Gone Pecan

4.  When reading most books, though MCs might have some issues with the love interests Cath’s issues seem to be an extreme.  Did you find her nerdiness/awkwardness believable or possibly relatable? 

Wow, I would not have characterized her as nerdy, but to an outside observer, I guess she would be.  I don’t think her issues are extreme at all, I think she shines a light on people, myself included, who have a passionate affection for fiction and fictional characters.  Everyone is passionate about something, hopefully, or they live a pretty dull existence.  I think it’s hard for Cath to understand or appreciate that Levi would feel about her what she feels for him. Not that she feels that she isn’t worthy of him, but because her feelings for Levi are different than her feelings and experience with her ex-boyfriend and it’s new and scary and combine that with Cath being out of her comfort zone at college, it’s a difficult wall to climb to make herself vulnerable in any way.  Plus, there is the whole issue of Levi being “unavailable,” as Reagan’s “boyfriend.”Daphne @ Gone Pecan

Cath’s introvertedness was actually the one thing that held me up in FANGIRL. She was a little beyond introverted and almost agoraphobic in a way. She seemed afraid to leave her room, her comfort zone and I think that’s just where I didn’t connect. There were several times where I was uncomfortable with one of my roommates in college much like Cath was with Reagan at first, and I did everything in my power to avoid seeing that person — I went to the library, the student center, work, restaurants, other people’s apartments — basically anywhere to avoid an uncomfortable situation. I know Cath didn’t like being around other people, but really you can go several places in town to be alone amongst other people and not be in closed quarters with someone you feel incredibly uncomfortable with.

The other half of that was the romance part. I get the hesitation — absolutely — but at times it just felt like a bit TOO much. She did make progress throughout the book, but for my taste, it wasn’t enough. By that, I don’t mean that she had to hurry up and get physical but her attitude towards physical intimacy felt juvenile to the point where she was almost afraid to even hold hands with Levi. It just felt a little TOO extreme for me to really connect with and it turned me off to Cath.
I actually feel totally alone in this opinion because for some reason this whole thing was a big issue for me and it didn’t seem to be a big issue for many other people. *shrugs* — Brittany @ Book Addict’s Guide

5.  Why do you think Cath is more comfortable with Reagan having what she thinks is a negative attitude towards her?  Do you have a story (good or bad) about a past roommate experience?

Hmmm, I don’t know if I would say she’s more comfortable with Reagan’s negative attitude but more so that she understands that’s how Reagan is with everyone and she starts to understand her better. I also think it becomes easier for them to get along because she knows that Reagan will say anything that’s on her mind and tell it like it is so she doesn’t have to be afraid of Reagan talking behind her back and things like that. Even if it’s a little more confrontational, I think Cath appreciated that Reagan was just straight up with her.

I had a couple roommate issues in college — and no hard feelings now — we had some trouble getting along sometimes. It was hard because I was living with my friend from high school, her roommate from the dorms, and her roommate’s twin sister. I actually got along with the roommate’s twin sister better (who I still talk to and hang out with today) because we were just more alike. The other girl just had very different tastes — in music, TV shows, friends, decorating tastes — everything. It was just hard for us to get along sometimes and things slowly built up and escalated into full blown fights and completely ignoring each other. It was REALLY hard to live like that and I’m sure none of us handled the situation as best as we could, but we tried. It actually took me a while to really get over those feelings of negativity that I felt towards her after I graduated because I resented that I had to feel uncomfortable in my own apartment. We don’t really talk now, but we’re still friends on Facebook and I don’t feel anything negative towards her anymore. She didn’t do anything to intentionally spite me and I think it was just a group of girls who had trouble living in the same space. We probably didn’t always communicate the best we could and I think assumptions, secrets, and jealousy flew freely — hey, we were GIRLS. It created quite the drama for a while but I think we’re all okay with where we are in our lives and who we are today that we don’t hold any bad feelings towards what happened in college.  –Brittany @ The Book Addict’s Guide

I may be really reaching here, but I think it’s possible that Cath is more comfortable with Regan’s negative attitude because she has a negative attitude about herself. Sometimes when you don’t have the best self esteem/worth/whatever, it’s easier to fall into step with someone who has a negative attitude in general. Regan’s personality wasn’t really perky or energetic, she didn’t push Cath to do stuff… I think that was ideal for her because she wasn’t super positive about doing anything really. I lucked out freshman year with my roommate. We were a great balance to each other and she helped me come out of my shell. However… further roommates… total nightmares. My worst story is from my junior year of college. I had just transferred to a big university and was paired with another girl who transferred. She clearly had never lived with anyone. She would fry bologna (gross) which made our apartment SMELL. Even worse, she’d leave the rinds all over the counter for days. It was honestly the worst year of my college life because of her! Candice @ The Grown Up YA


Liked our roundtable discussion?  Check out the other SC posts!!

Freebie:   – Cath’s TBR List – Brittany @ The Book Addict’s Guide

Author Q & A + GIVEAWAYRainbow Rowell  –  Tee @ YA Crush

 Review:  Fangirl – Candice @ The Grown-Up YA

Page to ScreenHow would you cast Fangirl?   – Sandie & Diana @ Teen Lit Rocks

Thanks to St Martin’s Press for providing ARCS for review on the SC.

7 thoughts on “The Selective Collective: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  1. Oh, I love reading everyone’s answers. We are so smart. 🙂 On #4, I love Brittany’s answer because as I was reading it I thought Cath was too reluctant as well…but then I thought back to when I was her age and I think I was worse. When I say “boys freaked me out” I mean they kind of terrified me. The idea that one might date me and then, inevitably break my heart or end up hating me and feeling all awkward around me, always loomed there and I just figured I’d cut out the break up and never date anyone. Also, honestly, the idea of someone’s face–especially someone I liked–looming over mine about to kiss me really scared me. That’s why I was sixteen when I had my first kiss because OMG scary! I was weird.

  2. Love everyone’s answers! This was a great discussion! I know Tee commented on B’s response on question #4… I think Cath’s reluctance to do anything (even hand holding) was really over the top… BUT. But. I think also that it was all so new for her that she had no idea what she was doing. I remember being in college and getting into several “hand holding” situations and just going with it because I didn’t want look like a baby… despite being really REALLY uncomfortable. While I think Cath was a little over the top, I also am glad that she let herself become comfortable with Levi, with no pressure, instead of forcing it. To me that’s a great lesson for young girls in college (or high school… or whatever) who are super inexperienced (ie me) when it comes to boys.

    However, I’m sorry, but if someone as spectacular as Levi wanted to hold my hand, by golly I wouldn’t tell him no!

  3. I really loved everyone’s answers to these!! Thanks for replying to my answer too, Tee & Candice! I can totally see all sides of it but sadly that was the ONE thing I didn’t enjoy about Fangirl.
    Seriously….. Levi can hold my hand ALL DAY. I absolutely adored him.

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