By Rainbow Rowell
Published by St. Martin’s Press, 2013.
I cheated and took a break from reading Veronica Roth’s Insurgent to read Rainbow Rowell’s latest book: Fangirl. I have no regrets.
As a 24-year-old I grew up in the Harry Potter fandom. I read (and wrote) fanfiction, perused fanart galleries, and even did some online roleplaying with friends. I went to midnight premieres for all of the movies where midnight premieres were a thing. I went to midnight book releases for books four through seven, and dressed up as a Hogwarts student for Halloween more than once. The final book in the Harry Potter series was released the summer after I graduated high school (2007), and its publication wasn’t just the end of a series, it was the symbolic end of being a child. A month later I was on my way to college for the first time, and while I didn’t exactly give up my obsession with the series, I didn’t cling to my childhood in the way that Cath does in Fangirl.
What’s it about?
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .
But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fanfiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?” (from rainbowrowell.com)
What I liked most:
– Everything important. This book. Just. This review will probably be the closest to a gushing, loving rant you’ll ever get from me. I adored Fangirl. Rowell has managed to write impeccably realistic characters, with believable fears and flaws, and some of the most accurate descriptions of what it’s like during your first year of college. I think all of us have a little bit of Cath and Wren in us. Cath is probably the most believable portrayal of a fangirl I’ve ever seen or read. At one point, she has a conversation with another Simon Snow fan that I’m pretty sure I’ve had with Harry Potter fans before. The whole book is strikingly realistic, with just the right touch of teenage romance to cap it off.
– The teenage romance. Also falls under the category of beautifully accurate portrayal of young adulthood. Cath and her love interest meet under normal circumstances, grow their relationship in a realistic way, and the relationship continues to organically shape itself throughout the book. While Cath’s anxieties sometimes frustrate, I never felt like her issues were unreasonable. You know how sometimes you feel like the author is holding a character back just because? I didn’t feel that way at all. Cath’s worries are justified and natural, and she deals with them in a healthy way. And her boy is a complete catch. Ugh, he’s just so perfect, but not in a sickening way. Just, in a way.
– The other relationships. Rowell managed to perfectly balance Cath’s various familial relationships with her new found friendships. Fangirl isn’t just about Cath’s relationship with her estranged mother or unstable father. It’s not just about her problems with Wren. It’s not about her and her roommate or boy troubles or college. It’s about all of them.
What I liked least:
– Please Rainbow Rowell, I want some more. More more more. I could’ve kept reading for another 400 pages.
– Nitpicky things. I don’t know why, I just didn’t like hearing Cath called “sweetheart” by her love interest. This is really just a personal preference as my friend Rachul disagreed with me. Like I said above, I loved everything important about this book.
I’d heartily recommend this book to readers of general YA fiction and anyone who has ever been involved in fandom. Rowell’s writing is funny and charming, keeps you reading, and, ultimately, is over too soon.
Also by @RainbowRowell:
Eleanor and Park
Landline (forthcoming 2014)