Two years ago, I arrive home from college for winter break, to find my younger sister ranting and raving about this book. Fangirl by the incomparable Rainbow Rowell. I’m eager to read a novel or two during my downtime so I welcome the distraction of reading it and my sister is delighted to discuss it with me upon its completion.
So, I sit down to begin. I fall in love with the book almost instantaneously. I connect with the protagonist, Cath, on a deep, emotional level. She is a college student who likes to be alone, loves sweaters, is wrestling with leftover trauma from being abandoned by one of her parents when she was young, is an avid reader/writer, and is overwhelmed by the college experience for the first semester that she’s in it. Needless to say, she and I have a lot in common.
Here is a description of Levi, as I see him. Tall, blonde (with a widow’s peak), friendly (gives out smiles to everyone like it doesn’t cost him anything), poor grades, and has an undiagnosed reading disability, yet at the same time, has a fascination with fiction.
These are things that I learn about Levi as I go along in the story. He seems great at first but once I get to the bit about the overwhelming friendliness and the reading struggles, I start to notice something may be up.
Then Cath falls for him. And Levi falls for her.
And I close the book.
I tell Sarah that I’m sorry, but I will not be finishing this book right now. She’s confused. “What, you don’t like it?” she asks, her brow furrowed, pausing her game of Skyrim to fix me with a look of shock. Her surprise is predictable. This book has everything that I love in it: a college setting, cute and quirky characters, romance, etc.
I don’t explain myself right away but later on, a few weeks later, I tell her. “Well, I know this boy. He’s a lot like Levi and he’s great. I really like him. But he doesn’t like me.”
She understood what I meant. It was too real for me at that point in time and I couldn’t handle it.
At first I thought I was being too dramatic. Like, this book is really great and why am I condemning one piece of fiction for my own personal problems. Well, you see, I’m not. I’m just not ready to experience the fiction yet. I’m not ready yet to take part in these characters. I wanted to be able to appreciate them at their fullest when I was ready. And, ready I was not.
The semester that followed was hard. I literally walked around with an idol strapped to my back and it felt like every morning the devil was presenting it front of me and saying,
“Oh, yeah, don’t forget to strap this onto yourself before you leave. We need to make sure that it saps everything good and beautiful and enjoyable out of your life, but make sure that you don’t mention it to God. I mean, he’s too busy with all your happier, prettier friends. It’s time you came to terms with the fact that he doesn’t care about you. And he is never going to give you this one thing that you want so bad. But you must never accept that he will never give it to you. You must be defiant. You have to tell him, ‘No, God, I do want this! I want this more than I want you.’ There, now you say it…”
You get the idea.
These were the things I had to conquer before I could pick this book back up.
Well, that was two years ago. The boy is with someone else now (one of my best friends actually) and they’re quite happy. I try not to think about them too much, though, so I really don’t know if that’s true or not. But I hope it is. In a weird way. I talk to God every day now and the idol that used to be a large knapsack is now more akin to a pebble I keep finding in my pocket every time I go rummaging through it.
A week ago, I found myself in between books and so I picked up Fangirl again. I texted my sister, “I am reading Fangirl. I will not start another book until I am finished.” To which she responded, “!!!”
Now I can safely say that Levi is great. Rainbow Rowell knew what she was doing when she wrote this book. But that’s not surprise. She is the queen, after all.