Fangirl vol. 3 Review

By | Wednesday, August 09, 2023 Leave a Comment
Back in 2020, I reviewed the first volume of the manga adpation of Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl. It follows Cath during her first year at college, and dealing with all the differences that separate that experience from high school. Cath's challenges also include, though, that she's pretty quiet and introverted, very much unlike her twin sister Wren. Furthermore, Levi -- the guy that Cath is interested in -- spent most of his high school career dating Cath's new roommate, Reagan. All this is against the backdrop of an in-world series called Simon Snow (which is kind of cross between Harry Potter and Twilight) of which Cath is one of the more predominent online fanfic authors.

Volume 3 picks up pretty much right where volume 2 left off, with Cath leaving a party upset because she saw Levi kissing another girl there. Cath tries avoiding Levi for the next few weeks and, to complicate matters, Cath's father has a breakdown just as final exams are getting underway. While she's ultimately able to do make-up exams and postpone her major projects to help take care of her father, she winds up getting into a massive argument with Wren about their long-absent mother. The twins stop talking to each other and, just as Cath is able to settle into a new normal as the next term starts, she gets a phone call from the mother she hasn't had any contact with for a decade...

Cue dramatic music as the "to be continued" message shows up!

As I said in reviewing volume 1, I have not read Rowell's prose novel this is based on so I can't compare it directly against that. I would presume this particular volume adheres more closely to the original because Rowell herself wrote this adapation, compared to Sam Maggs who worked on the first two volumes. But I don't know, maybe Rowell wound up changing more because she saw this as an opportunity to improve on what she didn't like about the original. This latest installment doesn't seem to flow any differently or have any appreciably different rhythms than the first two, but I can't tell if that's the result of the original story or that Gabi Nam has done the artwork on everything so far. Regardless, if you liked how volumes 1 and 2 worked, I'm sure you'll like this one as well.

Interestingly, for as much as I noted back in 2020 how much I connected with Cath despite our specific circumstances being wildly different, this didn't hit quite the same way. Not that I don't still connect with Cath, but three years ago when I first read this, it brough back a flood of early college memories I hadn't given any thought to in decades. And while we are a little over a year since the previous installment came out, those memories are still fresher now than they were three years ago when I first read it, so they don't, they can't land the same. But I'm still reminded of several early experiences from my college days, and I can still connect with Cath on many of them. If I were to lodge any complaints against this volume, I would say that
  1. I don't think we get enough of Reagan here. That's mostly a selfish complaint on my part becase I really like the character; I half-wonder if I wouldn't like a Reagan-centered series more than a Cath-centered one.
  2. The narrative periodically switches to depicting various Simon Snow stories, sometimes the canon work, sometimes Cath's fanfic. Not surprisingly, the scenes depicted generally server to underscore the main narrative at that point in the story. But there were two instances where I had trouble following along. Not because it requires some unknown Simon Snow lore or something, but just the storytelling doesn't quite work. I can't tell if that's more an issue with the art or the story itself or some combination, but I definitely had a couple "Wait, what just happened?" moments with them. Both seemed to be more action-oriented scenes, so I suspect it has something to do with that type of illustrative choreography.
Overall, it's an enjoyable series, and I'm looking forward to the next (and, I believe, final) book. I'm not seeing any suggested publication dates for that anywhere, but I presume we'd be looking at maybe late summer/early fall 2024, based on the previous releases. Volume 3, at least, came out yesterday and should be available through your favorite bookstore. It is published by Viz Media and retails for $16.99 US.
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