In Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, 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?
I can't imagine that when you read Cath, her hesitance to jump into life, her insane passion for stories, and doubtful thoughts about her abilities as a writer, that you don't think you're reading yourself from the time you were in school. Or maybe that unabashedly her person is still you. Either way, I can attest that of characters I've read and thought maybe I could relate to them...Cath takes it.
There are a few reasons why I think Fangirl is one of the best young adult novels I've read. First is Cath. Cath is awkward and unsure of herself, a bit unsteady as to where she fits. She's everyone of us at various stages of our lives, especially if you're a "bookish fandom dweller". She embraces her dork, is passionate about fanfiction (I have a fave fanfiction fandom for each stage of life: The Mummy (1999) when I was in high school. Twilight whilst in college. And The Hunger Games now.) and she can't help but stumble through falling in love for the first time.
Second are the beautiful relationships throughout the story. Levi is well...perfection (I'm praying for one of my own) . Sunny, organic, lovely...perfect for Cath. I loved their layered growth, and how young and happy reading about them made me feel. Everyone should have a Levi, or arguably better, be the Levi to someone else. I also loved watching Cath blossom through her friendship with Reagan, her no nonsense roommate, and Wren, her twin sister who, at first, seems to be growing away from her. There's nothing better than to be taken on a journey where by the end, you see the main character grow into who you cheered for her to be all along! It made me take a sigh of relief for myself. For the freshman year Britta who dealt with the same issues of feeling like the only human being who was passionate about what she was passionate about, with guys, and finding a place. This novel also has it's serious points with Cath and Wren's parents, and their challenge to move beyond said situations. These moments balanced out the novel so well.
Third is writing. Rainbow Rowell wrote an article about Fangirl being her NanoWrimo darling. The novel she had to push through, that made her have to create the branches as she fell to grab hold of. In the novel, Cath is forced to face herself as a writer, and challenged to move away from the parts of herself that looks to fanfiction as a security blanket. As a writer, I think I'm always looking for that assurance that it's okay to feel a little unstable. Like you're walking on glass that cracks every time you take a step, but it's okay. It's okay. Push through anyway. That's what this novel was to me. A glowing minty reminder to keep going. If I ever taught creative writing, I'd surely make my students read this novel.
Bare in mind: Fangirl contains profanity, slight sensuality, and excerpts of non explicit Slash fanfiction.
Fangirl was a refreshing ball of joy. The way Rainbow Rowell explores life in such a snarky, romantic, and overall awesome way is priceless. It perfectly captures the rush of finding a story that sucks you into it's world so much that it becomes a friend, and gateway to an even larger family.
Let's grab Gingerbread Lattes and have a jam session about this book for a full Saturday Afternoon. We're going in for the long haul.
Hugs and love,