Fangirl Reviews Fangirl, Vol. 1: The Manga by Sam Maggs, Rainbow Rowell, Gabi Nam

Prepare for an epic Battle of the Books in this review of Fangirl VS Fangirl, vol. 1. I’m going to start with an alarming statement: This adaptation was making me hate my all-time favorite book.

*REWIND TO MY FIRST IMPRESSION*

Nothing might top the excitement I felt before opening this illustrated adaptation of my favorite book. Maybe having a movie adaptation. This is the closest I might get to that wish. I thought it was going to be like having fanart of all my favorite scenes. I mean, I have two reviews up on my blog where I talk all about my love for these characters: Why I Fangirl over Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (Spoilers: Levi) & Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. And even more reviews of Rowell’s other books. Landline was a recent favorite for all the introverts seeking love.

Of course, I couldn’t tame the temptation of starting this book even though I was a week before an important exam… This perfectly mirrors my experience of reading Fangirl back in January 2014 for the first time, also known as the night before my math exam. I started the book before going to bed thinking it would help calm my nerves before the exam and help me fall asleep… Oh, I had to force myself to part from this book at 2am – not because I was tired (Fangirl made me feel alive) but because I couldn’t possibly think straight if I didn’t go to sleep right then and there. It’s funny the way life circles back to you.

I remember my thoughts at school that day, after reading Fangirl into the night, centered entirely on Levi. I had never before expended such intense emotions for a book. I missed being away from these characters. Is that love?

I felt like talking about Fangirl to anyone willing to listen like these characters were real people I knew. I had to hold myself back from letting all my thoughts spillover. What an experience… It’s what made me start looking for more books to read instead of browsing for new popular Wattpad stories (fans of The Cellphone Swap hit me up*).

I can’t put into words all that Fangirl got me through. It was my first physical copy of a book I loved. When I’d get bored with whatever library book I was reading Fangirl would be the book I would reach for. Anytime I was sad or anxious, I would flip to a page in Fangirl to cheer me up. Anytime an important event happens in my life I hear quotes from the book in my head mirroring my thoughts. Like when starting something new and hearing Cath’s “In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t Google.)” Y’know, the best of lines. 

Bottom line: This book means the world to me.

I thought I was being patient by taking my time with this adaptation instead of devouring it in one sitting. I even wrote in my notes: me being able to actually put the book aside to sleep before an important day? You know what that is growth.

I was even glad for my patience because I needed the comfort of this world after the monstrosity of that exam. In hindsight, it wasn’t patience so much as avoidance of the impending disappointment that was slowly creeping up the more I read on.

It started out fine enough at first with the initial excitement still shaping my reading experience. I was just so grateful to be back in a world I so love and cherish with new insight. Then came the first few moments of doubt creeping in with thoughts like, “Huh, why did they change that?” “Huh, why did they leave that out?” I pushed it aside thinking it was just the first few pages getting used to this storytelling. The more it happened the heavier my disappointment. In some cases having lines omitted was a big no-no. Her waking up in a new place voiced one of the most iconic lines. Why get rid of it? At one point, I started numbering each disappointment so it would be easier to find for my final review. I took endless notes. I stopped enjoying the storyline and was more focused on what next iconic line would be reduced. My only hope was to reach my favorite scene with Levi, aka reading The Outsiders.

Narrator: And that’s when she realized this is the first installment out of four and what if it ends before the best of scenes appears and she would have to wait who knows how many months more. Despair set in.

Spoiler: I hate that I skipped ahead. To my disappointment, the narrator was right. This installment ends right when things were supposed to pick up in the storyline.

I remember being utterly shocked at my realization that I was actually not enjoying this book. At all. And that’s why I wasn’t devouring it in one sitting. How was it that deep inside I knew (aka my avoidance) but it took a full day for my head to catch up? Freud was right all along. I never even considered myself being unhappy with this book as an option. It was either love or super love. Oh, youth.

Throughout my reading experience, I kept feeling like this manga was just here to complete a deadline because it took all the best lines from the book and put them on paper and c’est tout – nothing is happening on the page to bring the words alive. We already read the storyline once. The words existed before this point. This book can’t depend on the words moving us. So the art should be here as a distraction from the words. Make me feel the storyline through art so that we don’t depend on the words to move the story along. We already know what happens.

Also, it made it extremely hard to empathize with Cath in here when all her inner dialogue is essentially gone and we’re only left with what she says to others, which can come across as quite aloof and rude. Like Levi put it in the original book: “I can see why you and Reagan hit it off.” He got up to follow her. “You can both be extremely brusque sometimes.”

He’s right that other people might perceive her that way, but in Fangirl when you read her inner monologue, you can empathize with her actions. This is not the case in this manga adaptation when the majority of her inner monologue is wiped away.

Me agreeing with Wren? Unheard of. Until now. This scene might’ve legit unleashed my wrath. It triggered my flight or fight response.

In the book, you can see Cath feeling overwhelmed before this scene by all the new territory and the accompanying intense fear and anxiety she’s experiencing. You get inside her head. Here you just get this scene where her sister is trying to include her and Cath’s like, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Give us some character building so we’re on Cath’s side here. You can’t just dump it on us and expect to side with her. And one page of seeing her lonely isn’t going to cut it. We need to get inside her head.

Case in point of info dump #1:

So much T E X T.

I was supposed to get all the feels when seeing Levi… Instead, I was perplexed by the choice of art wherein Abel looks more like Levi than Levi does. I mean, let me ask the audience:

THAT’S ABEL?? He literally looks like Levi on the cover art of Fangirl…

I mean even her dad looks more like Levi than Levi does in this adaptation…

I am confusion.

Levi looks more like Gansey from The Raven Cycle with this golden prep boy aesthetic. Let’s all recall that he’s supposed to be a cute farmer boy in green Carhartt.

I guess my main disappointment in this volume stems from the art – not the style but the fact that it doesn’t add anything to the storyline. It’s like when the choreography to a song is about what the lyrics are literally saying, instead of moving your body to the feel of the song so that the audience can feel it too. I want to be moved by the words through art and not have the art transcribe the text. This is especially seen in the above info dump #1.

Shouldn’t that be the whole point of adapting a book that already exists into comic book format or manga? To re-experience the story through the art so that it feels like reading it for the first time. This is not that. These characters don’t move. There’s no life in them. I can’t imagine them talking when I close the book, you know? In the best of books, you can imagine the characters moving outside the storyline. That’s what fanfiction is about when the world is so alive you can imagine any scenario with your faves. This is what it felt like in the original book. It works so well in the original because the inner dialogue is so integral to the story.

This adaptation was making me hate my all-time favorite book. Dangerous territory for me because sir, those are my emotional support characters.

I feel like Cath when Reagan is critiquing her poster: “leave them alone, they’re in love.” They took the best parts of the book and barely gave it the time of day it deserved. All the best moments are either left out or just done poorly. I wanted this adaptation to feel like when I see fanart of my favorite scenes: Alive. I left grossly let down. And you can see I wrote this whole thesis to let it all out.

The only thing that benefited from this manga style was the Baz and Simon storyline, which is all too easy to skip over in the original book, but really fit in with this format. Maybe that’s because in Fangirl they appear so stiff and formal that this book could only benefit them.

I have this tiny sliver of hope that the next volume will pick up in speed and align the art more with the feel of the book. Also, I hope it features my favorite reading scene… All that’s keeping me afloat right now.

I guess this is why some things are better left imagined in your head rather than see it executed poorly. This is why we can’t have good things. Read my reviews of the original book instead to get a good laugh and a feel for how good this was supposed to be: Why I Fangirl over Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (Spoilers: Levi) & Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I have no other words left, only this line from vine which says it all: Fuck your chicken strips.

  • Fans of the story until Chapter 18 iLike Him because Tallon turns into a stranger real quick from teasing and joyful to brooding and low-key annoying.

Support this thesis of a review by checking this book or its rival through Amazon preview:

Review: Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

Had the sudden urge to check out one scene from this book and ended up rereading all the scenes with Mitch in one quick succession. (Yes, I still skip the pages only to read the scenes with Mitch/Blondie).

Is this my favorite book couple? No. Is this my favorite romance? Yes. Make it make sense…

It’s just that I take so much joy in the actual romance scenes of this book that I don’t even care for the fact that the couple doesn’t fit that well together. Similarly to my reading experience with The Hating Game: I love the romance, hate the couple.

Let me paint the picture with this scene showcasing the little things that make this book stand out to me:

“Honestly, I’m too tired for this shit.’ As Jess said it, she felt it. ‘Exhausted. Do you know I’ve been out every night for the last six nights?’
‘You’re a legend.’
‘That’s what I was aiming for. Legend status.’
He smiled, squeezing her with his thighs. ‘Sit down.”

The emphasis put on simply displaying tender touches instead of rushing to check off big milestones is the definition of romance™. I want more!!! Which is probably why I keep coming back to Summer skin time and again. But it’s also why I’m perplexed by this book. I mean it has hands down one of the best romance scenes I’ve read, and yet, it degrades itself in the second half by including so many unnecessary drama scenes. Why? I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: This is a romance book, we’re here for the romance!!

I mean, Mitch is the kind of guy you see repeatedly women complain about in advice columns with his hot-and-cold behavior: “If a guy wants to hang out daily but avoids getting personal does that secretly mean he really likes me?” Yeah, just the kind of guy you dream about… I felt legit sorry for Jess for having to put up with him simply because she’s addicted to his touch. Something as little as Mitch refusing to give his phone number to her aggravated me (he refuses multiple times, ugh). If anything, the social distancing rules now in place keep guys like Mitch away. Far, far away.
Like I said, I had more respect for him as Blondie because at least Jess put him in his place. Also, hot.

Oh, and funny looking at the dates of my previous reread to notice that I read it around the same time last year. There are cosmic forces at work with this book. Like I noted at the end of my review: their sexual tension traveled into the future to remind me to reread it.

My previous reread impressions on October 13, 2019 (shared on Goodreads):

When you intend on only going back to reread one chapter and end up awake till nearly 4am to finish the book… Help. It’s those damned Coca-Cola cans.

Also, why did I end up enjoying Mitch when he was simply known as “Blondie” more? The thrill of Jess’s electric chemistry with him at the start was everything. It’s why I kept reading on and on. I’ll be the first to admit that his “Can I touch you?” worked all too well on me. I really enjoyed them challenging each other to see who would push the line too far. But that only seemed to happen at the start.

So the end turned into a bit of a let down with Mitch constantly disappearing, basically ghosting Jess, only to turn up intoxicated at her doorstep. Rinse and Repeat. Mitch’s quick remarks as “Blondie” and Jess’s feisty remarks putting him in his place were simply too good to be replaced with this wishy-washy behavior.

As a disclaimer, I tried reading this back in May 2016 and dnf’d it because “Blondie” turned into “Mitch,” and it really wasn’t doing the same for me at the end. But given that it’s been three years and I could still recall scenes so vividly, like the Coca-Cola cans and the construction workers scene, really speaks volumes about this book. It was written so well that their sexual tension traveled three years into the future to remind me to reread it.

Check out where the fun begins through this Amazon excerpt:

 

Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

I realized while scrolling through my extensive ravings for Rainbow Rowell’s books, I’ve failed to include Attachments in the excitement. We’re gathered here today to mend that mistake.

“Or maybe he was just afraid to do something real.”

Funny to consider that Attachments used to be my least favorite Rowell book, maybe a bit above Landline, simply because I could not be bothered to even think about the adult world when I first read those books. And now, Attachments is like my second favorite book of hers right after Fangirl. You know what that is? insecure hbo

Who knew I’d become an adult so soon? They grow up so fast.

If you asked in short, why I love this book, I’d say it’s because of the characters. With Lincoln’s fear of moving forward in life, yet afraid of standing still. Plus, the moms in this book are something to behold. Attachments is full of Rainbow Rowell’s excellent dialogue, thanks to Beth and Jennifer’s email exchanges. Also, it’s an obvious biased reason to love a character, but Lincoln is such a Cath (Fangirl).

“If he didn’t look, he didn’t risk accidental eye contact.”

I guess I really love my introverted representation. For a minute there, I let myself wonder how Cath and Lincoln would get along. But given that they’re both main characters taken from Rainbow’s mind, it feels taboo crossing them over, as if they’re related or something because they were created by the same person.     

Okay, that’s it in short. But you know we don’t do short around here, so let me rave extensively about the beauty of this storyline:

  • I think I secretly love Attachments so much, mainly for the fact that all I ever wanted is a guy to interpret my telepathic gestures at him. So of course, I secretly took joy in Lincoln’s adjusted behavior upon reading Beth’s thoughts on him. It’s like he has insider info. I mean not like – he actually does, but still… It’s kind of a dream not having to actually approach the guy. He knows your opinion, feels the same, and is secretly reciprocating your thoughts to show ‘I’m here. I like you too.’ Mr. Darcy would approve.

“If this were a Jane Austen novel, it wouldn’t be so bad—if you were intercepting my letters, and I was peeking over your garden hedge …Computers make everything worse.”

  • You know it’s a lot to take in the invasion of privacy that happens so I felt a tiny bit relieved when Beth would do the same to him, like trying to follow him home, and planning an imaginative life with him and feeling betrayed when she thinks he’s already settled down

“Wondering what his name is. And whether he’s as nice as he seems. And whether he likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain …

Would you believe it if I said that song was stuck in my head for hours after…

Also, funny that this isn’t her first rodeo of creeping on a guy. See below how she met Chris, her douche boyfriend, who we all, including Beth, ignore (does it still count as ignoring if he ignores you first?):

“One Tuesday night in November, I saw him at the library. I spent the next four Tuesday nights there, hoping it was a pattern. It wasn’t. Sometimes I’d allow myself to follow him to his 11:30 class in Andrews Hall, and then I’d have to run across campus to make it to my class in the Temple Building.
By the end of the semester, I was long past the point of starting a natural, casual conversation with him. I stopped trying to make eye contact.

I admire her sheer power of will to see something through.

  • The humor in Rainbow’s books remains impeccable. The amount of times I simply wrote “lol” in my notes (the quickest way to keep reading but pinning what made me laugh) is astronomical. Just to state a few examples:

“<<Jennifer to Beth>> Hmmm …I think I’d like to be a stay-at-home mom with no kids.”

Seriously, where does she come up with these gold one-liners?

“Like Lincoln, most of the girls had eyes only for the guitarist.”

Just the wording of that phrase alone is hilarious.

Oh, any and all conversations with any and all of the moms in this book receives an instant five-star rating. Just read this:

“You came to kindergarten with me for the first month.”
“You asked me to.”
“I was five,” Eve said. “You should have told me no.”
“You were scared.”
“I was five.”
“I didn’t send Lincoln until he was seven, and I’m so glad. He was so much more prepared.”
Lincoln had been prepared for kindergarten. He could already read and do some addition and subtraction.”

What a mom gem.

Another one: “I think they were happier about my breakup than Kiley’s wedding. “I knew it was a mistake to let him be in the family picture,” my mother said.

They don’t make them like this in other books. I want more!

But the thing that hit me most was Lincoln’s mom words on seeing your baby grow up:

“Why do you think I can remember that,” she asked, “when you can’t? Why does nature do that to us? How does that serve evolution? Those were the most important years of my life, and you can’t even remember them.”

Whew.

On a more upbeat point, the humor remains impeccable:

“Doris clucked and choked on her cake. She put her hand on his shoulder. Lincoln hoped that Beth wasn’t about to walk in.”

Ha! So she won’t write about it the next day accusing her Cute Guy of cheating (with an elderly woman)? It’s like he hears Beth’s voice narrating his life. I love it.

  • I also adore this book so much for giving us that “Falling …Was he falling? Or was he just bored?” This hits the spot! Both Lincoln and Beth are on standstill in their personal lives with no way out so they use each other as this safe haven in their head… I want more.

I can’t give him up. What would I have to look forward to?”

Above all, these two represented the way we can let our fantasies take over so we’ll never have to do anything real.

“No, he was just going to kiss her. He wasn’t going to wait. She’d kiss him back. He was absolutely certain that she would kiss him back.
And then he’d tell her that he loved her.
And then he’d tell her his name.
And then and then and then … what?”

Me creating scenarios in my head be like…

  • Reading the email with the phrase “trying not to bite his shoulder.” bookspoils

There’s so much longing present in this book that it only hit me toward the end when they finally kiss that it is the only kiss in the book. They live so vicariously in their head, I almost forgot no one actually instigates anything in their real-life until they do. What a shock that was. I WANT MORE! It was like hitting the play button after being stuck on rewind for so long.

“because I’m not 16 anymore. That’s when it hit me— I’m not 16 anymore.
And I don’t mean that in an offhand “well, obviously” way. I mean it like “Jack and Diane.” Like, “Oh, yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.”

This made me hit the same realization. Help. Oh, to be young and… and what? I love the idea of reverting to my younger self but there’s also so much pain that accompanies those teen years that it’s honestly not worth it. But oh, to think of all the books that await to be read for the first time…

  • Lastly, I’ll indulge in sharing random moments of resemblance to Fangirl because it’s my favorite book and I look for it in everything:

“<<Jennifer to Beth>> Really. I think you’re pathetic. It’s almost painfully embarrassing to read your messages when you’re like this.”

Reagan before Reagan existed.

“<<Beth to Jennifer>> How did he win you over?
<<Jennifer to Beth>> He just wouldn’t leave me alone. He kept sitting behind me in our poetry- writing class and asking me if I had plans for lunch. Like I wanted this muscle-bound blond guy to watch me eat.
<<Beth to Jennifer>> I can just see him. A farm boy with sexy sousaphone shoulders …”

(Puts on best Jeopardy game-voice) What is Levi for 100 points

Also, Lincoln kissing Christine in their college days while studying for a final? What is Cath and Levi for 200 points.

Okay, thank you for letting me indulge in that.  I’ll leave at that, since I don’t want Jennifer calling me pathetic.

This review has been a long time coming. So I’m glad to have it up to revisit time and again, as I commonly do with my reviews for Rainbow Rowell books.

Please indulge in a copy for yourself or your loved ones. Choose your pick of the litter:


Why I Fangirl over Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl

The Perfect Fall Read: Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell, Faith Erin Hicks

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell, or Fate, Time, Television and True Love

Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Review: Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell


Can we take a moment to admire the beauty of all these books put together: