Published by Macmillan on 10-09-2013
Genres: Contemporary, Girls & Women, New Adult, Young Adult
A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.
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 fan fiction, 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 fan fiction 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?
Cath and Wren are twin sisters, who until now have done everything together, including write hugely successful Simon Snow fanfiction. Now that they’re going off to college though, Wren wants them to be a little more independent. She’s slowly become less of a Simon Snow fangirl and she wants to go and have the college experience – and that doesn’t mean sharing a room with her twin.
While Wren bonds with her new roomate Courtney, settles in to the party lifestyle, and generally loves college so far, Cath is finding it a little harder to adjust. She’s always been the quieter twin, and she’d really rather stay in her room and write than try to figure out the chaos that is the dining hall. Not to mention that her roomate sort of seems to think she’s a freak, and that Cath is worried about her father, who’s alone for the first time and hasn’t always had the most stable mental health.
“There are other people on the Internet. It’s awesome. You get all the benefits of ‘other people’ without the body odor and the eye contact.”
Do you know how sometimes, a book just clicks with you, and you aren’t quite 100% sure why? When you love a book, but can’t decide on the exact thing that takes it from a four or five star read to “Keep, recommend, re-read a thousand times” status?
When I first finished Fangirl, it was one of those books, but I think I’ve decided what it is that makes Fangirl a new favourite. It’s not the plot, the characters, the romance or the writing (all of which I loved) – it’s the combination of those things, and the way that Rowell makes everything so easy to relate to. I texted countless quotes from this to my partner and friends. I want to buy everyone close to me a copy and say “THIS. THIS IS HOW MY BRAIN WORKS!”.
Rainbow Rowell has managed to capture the fears of starting college perfectly. She manages to include the little things like worrying about proper dining room protocol and the endless train of what ifs – like what if my roomate wants her boyfriend to stay here overnight? On top of the little things, there are the bigger concerns, like her relationship with her sister, worrying about her father, and keeping up with both her work load and her Simon Snow stories. And of course, there’s the romance! Rowell has perfectly encapsulated Cath’s fears, and I think they’re something everyone (even those not as anxious as Cath) can understand.
“I’d rather pour myself into a world I love and understand than try to make something up out of nothing.”
The plot line is basically a coming-of-age story, with Cath adjusting to college, worrying that Wren is maybe adjusting a bit too enthusiastically, the twins’ relationship, their new love interests, and their’ father’s instability. What really makes the story, is the characters. Cath and Wren are very relatable, in totally different ways. Although there will be times when one or the other baffles you (as their behaviour is sometimes pretty opposite, logic says you won’t always love both!), there will also be moments you can completely relate to. Whether it’s hitting the party lifestyle or holing up in your bedroom, Rowell has captured the sometimes slightly skewed adjustment of first year students.
I freely admit, not only did I love Fangirl, but it also reminded me how much I love fanfiction, and being a crazy fangirl about the things that are important to me. You know those quotes people always pin about being a geek? (You know the ones, the John Green and the Will Wheaton quotes and so on). Fangirl is like an entire book that says the same things: that being enthusiastic is okay. Not just okay in fact, but fun. That being a geek makes you you, and the important people will understand if you absolutely need to go to a midnight release or spend hours reading every Game of Thrones conspiracy theory or whatever else it is you want to do to celebrate whatever you’re passionate about.
“What’s that thing you wrote about Simon once, that his eyes followed Baz ‘like he was the brightest thing in the room, like he cast everything else into shadow’? That’s you. You can’t look away from him.”
While I liked Eleanor and Park, I loved Fangirl. I loved the characters, the slow-building romance, the snippets of Simon Snow stories that made it feel like a real fandom. I loved that Rowell had included sex, and partying hard, and plagiarism concerns, that the girls didn’t always get along perfectly and that Cath was anxious and geeky without being a pushover. It’s never explicit, and yet it doesn’t shy away from those real concerns, those things that happen at college. I think the reason Fangirl stands out, to me, is because it doesn’t feel like a cookie cutter version of something else; it’s unique, and it’s relatable. It reads like it could literally be a story about one of the bloggers you follow.
Buy it? Definitely one worth buying – a new favourite.
In a nutshell: Fantastically relatable characters, a perfect reflection into starting college and the mind of a fangirl.