A few weeks ago I read and reviewed Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, one of the first books on The Ultimate Reading List. Later, in one of my many aimless library browses, I found the first book of a manga version and picked it up for a half-hour read. Normally I wouldn’t write a whole post about a quick, random book, but since I just wrote about the original, I thought it would be fun to compare the two.
(Side note- I decided to start giving my book reviews movie ratings for age level)
Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, everybody is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath just can’t let go…
Cath doesn’t need friends IRL. She has her twin sister, Wren, and she’s a popular fanfic writer in the Simon Snow community with thousands of fans online. But now that she’s in college, Cath is completely outside of her comfort zone. There are suddenly all these new people in her life. She’s got a surly roomate with a charming boyfriend, a writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome new writing partner…
And she’s barely heard from Wren all semester!Inside cover of Fangirl: The Manga – Book 1
I might be biased with this book for multiple reasons. I liked Fangirl, and sometimes when you like a book, every little thing different in the adaptations annoys you. I had also just read the original, so all its details were fresh in my mind. This was the first manga I’ve ever read, though I want to try reading more. Finally, the last few graphic novels I read were printed in bright color, so the black-and-white style felt a little, well, colorless.
In the novel, the characters all have strong, distinct personalities. The art reflects each of them well in their appearance and actions. Cath is shy and quietly sarcastic, Wren is basically the opposite, Nick is nice but a little condescending, Reagan is loud, intense, and sometimes mean, and Levi is dramatic and always happy.
In between the chapters of Fangirl, there were excerpts from the Simon Snow books, Cath’s fan fiction, and other things she wrote. Sometimes when they got long, I just wanted to get back to the real story. When they were pictures, they had a lot more life and were actually interesting.
Now for the bad things. I think the whole story could have been fit into one slightly longer book. Fangirl was so long, seeing “Book 1” on this made me sigh.
There were a few errors in the drawing and writing that, while small, pulled me out of the world of the book. For example, Reagan’s clothes kept switching at one point—whether she was facing forward or backward, the words on her shirt faced the same way. (It’s hard to explain without showing the panels.) And of course, I couldn’t help but notice that when Cath refers to a piece of writing being in first-person point of view, it’s actually second-person.
This might be another part of me not knowing anything about manga, but it was a little confusing sometimes. The word bubbles were shaped differently depending on whether Cath was talking or thinking, but I still got lost at parts with a lot of both. Occasionally, the order that the panels were to be read in made me have to stop and go back.
With all my biases, this manga was mediocre. I wouldn’t read it again. I recommend it if you want more of Fangirl, and you’ll finish it quickly. If I happen to come across the next book, which comes out in May of 2022, I will read it, but I won’t be pre-ordering it or counting down the days.