Completely unnecessary note: So I finally had the first batch of my wisdom teeth taken out last Saturday. People have been asking me how I’m doing and I say—well, I type it out, since my mouth seems to have forgotten how to emit human sounds—that I’m in a lot of pain, but at least I’m getting a lot of reading done. [Story of my life.] [Drum-and-cymbals.] [I’ll be here ‘til Thursday!] Right. So the first couple of days, I hung out with The Shining, but took a break because the Overlook Hotel wasn’t very conducive to cultivating post-extraction calm. So I picked up Fangirl, and then I read Fangirl, and then I figured that since there’s been nothing else to do lately but imagine all the food I’ll be eating once my mouth goes back to normal [read: not painful], I figured I might as well do a Rainbow Rowell Round-up. Fuck yeah, alliterations.
I picked up Fangirl the evening before my surgery—when I was just supposed to get The Rosie Project for some happy-brain reading—because I have low to little EQ. (How many times did I tell myself I’d wait for the paperback, because as much as I’ve liked Rowell’s work, she wasn’t an author I’d pay hardcover-fees for?) It went well. Sort of.
It took me a really long time to warm up to Fangirl, maybe because in the condition I was in I just wasn’t too keen on pathetic people. And that was precisely what Cath seemed to me: Petrified of change, unwilling to take sensible risks, and actually turning mundane activities—like going to the dinner hall for food?—into risks. (Uh, no, she does not remind me of me, nope.) She was just completely closed to the inevitability of circumstances shifting around her—of the necessity of her participation in the Real World—that she would willfully step back and let it all happen without her. (No, that’s really not me, I’m telling you.) Her haven’s on hand, though: The Simon Snow books, which she’s been fangirl-ing to death, and her own fanfiction.
But Cath grows. Slowly, oh-so-fucking-slowly. It’s a very slow book, actually, if you’re the type to look for a change in the character—and, since this is a coming-of-age story, that’s not suspect at all. So Cather makes friends, Cather deals with family life, Cather deals with her work and what it means to her. Yadda. Anyway. Rowell does cute scenes very well, especially adorable-boy scenes. And that charged-innocent sexual tension between young adults? And Rowell’s standby trope of mixing breezy romance with Serious Adult Responsibilities? That was okay, I guess.
A note on the fanfiction: I’ve read fanfiction, have enjoyed several pieces, although I don’t really follow writers. And I read fanfiction precisely because I love whatever-canon-it-is so much that I need supplements. It could be a change in perspective, a reworking of one dimension of the leads’ relationship, etc. But I read fanfiction because I’m invested in the original work, and whenever good “addenda” come around, I don’t mind reading it. (Oddly enough: I’ve never turned to fanfic if I’m ever dissatisfied with the canon.) The thing is: I didn’t really care for Simon Snow, and so I couldn’t care for Cath’s fanfiction, no matter how masterful it is in the book’s world.
My admittedly lukewarm reaction to Fangirl comes at the heels of my as-lukewarm response to Attachments. But it was upon reading Fangirl that I can look at Attachments as the better book for me. It had more mature sensibilities, for one. And friendships between the characters were explored fully—it contains one of the best contemporary-life friendships I’ve ever read, I’ve just realized. I don’t know, okay? Attachments now just seems like it was right up my alley—people I don’t mind having a drink with making sensible adult decisions. And being funny about it. And being way, way, way adorable too. Huh. Even though one can argue that those “Serious Adult Responsibilities” issues Cather & Co. had to deal with were more dire than those in Attachments, there was more urgency in the latter’s. I understood what was happening in Attachments, even though I—yeah, yeah—can relate to Cath’s alienation from the world. I don’t know, I guess because it was more tempered in Attachments? [ETA: Rowell’s going to publish a book more aligned for adult readers in 2014. Cool beans.]
But those two can’t hold a candle to Eleanor and Park. Nope. This was the book I hardened my heart against, because everyone loved it, and I was prepared that my black, black soul would spit it out. But I was crying at page 73. Nothing dire here, but something so believably monumental: Eleanor and Park were holding hands. (Anyway, I was a complete ninny about this book; here’s a speaking-in-code and not-so-helpful post on my thoughts about it.) And I just kept crying and smiling and wobbly-smiling and just all-out bawling right up until Eleanor and Park ended, and even after.