Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
NA Fiction | Contemporary | Romance | Life
“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?”
pooled ink Review:
Oh my goodness, this turned out to be a very cute read. I sincerely hope people write fanfiction to carry on Cath’s story and that it concludes with a deliriously happy ending. This book covered Cath’s freshman year of college from day one to day done, so many obstacles, challenges (both internal and external), and growth climbed throughout the plot and in my mind there will be wedding bells and a “happily ever after” that sticks.
“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.”
Okay, so in Fangirl, Cath is a massive fan of the Simon Snow book series…which is an obvious allusion to the Harry Potter series and the mark they made in the literary world…and also just the world, period. So despite any attempts to make her devotion to said books seem childish, I am a Potterhead so I understand her love for them and how half the world looks at us like we’re ridiculous while the other half shakes hands and cheers the fandom onward boldly. I mean, I’ve never been really into reading fanfiction so I don’t get that part, but holding onto a beloved story that has been with you as you grow up and navigate your way through your entire childhood up to the moment of high school graduation?? Oh yeah, I really do understand that completely.
Cath is a college freshman who hides in her world of writing gay Simon Snow fan fiction (sooo I guess that’d be the equivalent to people writing Harry+Malfoy fanfic?). It’s rather fun how there are snippets from the “actual” Simon Snow books as well as samples of Cath’s fan fiction dispersed throughout the book. It helped solidify and verify Cath’s devotion to Simon Snow, plus I love how the author exemplified how it wound its way into Cath’s own life and relationships.
Reading about her writing blocks and eruptions, how she could stay up all night pouring out words upon words in this world that she could so easily envision in her mind…I simply loved hearing it put into words. I’ve been working on my own work and I guess it was just nice to hear both the mania and the struggles expressed so elegantly informal. Sometimes it’s too easy to build up published authors as superheroes despite how many times they confess their writing challenges. Having followed Cath’s life in this book she seems more real, more on my own level, perhaps.
Back to this being a book about Cath’s first year: Oh my word, many of Cath’s college freshman fears are so relatable that it’s almost embarrassing haha wow do I remember the anxiety over my own first year at University or what!
“In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t google.) Like, where does the line start? What food can you take? Where are you supposed to stand, then where are you supposed to sit? Where do you go when you’re done, why is everyone watching you?…Bah.” -Cath
You’d think as a theatre major I wouldn’t be quite as introverted as Cath and it’s true, I’m not, but I AM an over thinker with a Type A personality so I fret over these types of questions frequently haha…I’m serious. I can be ridiculous. And I’ve driven myself to tears from silly anxiety more than once. (Why am I confessing that to you?? Haha ah well whatever). Also, like her, I overuse the passive-aggressive word “just” sooo thanks for pointing that out, Cath.
But yeah, Cath is a pretty intense introvert. It’s almost a little stressful to read. At the beginning, that is. Like I mentioned earlier, this book really shows a lot of change and growth in Cath’s life and within Cath herself. It’s beautiful and I believe that it might help give others hope. I certainly changed an incredible amount in college despite my introverted fears of being this quiet little awkward nobody for the rest of my life. Friendships were formed, experiences were had, and memories were made. Life can be intoxicating that way, like sometimes you don’t even realize how much you’ve done or how far you’ve gone or who’s become a part of your life until it’s over.
Truly Rowell does a good job conveying the ups and downs of that first year in college. It’s different for everyone but some bits are the same throughout. I dunno, but I do know that this really turned out to be a cute read. Cath’s first semester was sort of rough, but mine was too. Her spring semester really carried her uphill with a whole flurry of change and accomplishment. Spring semesters are always better, for whatever reason they just are. So if you decide to read this book and are starting to get antsy over the dark divots in Cath’s first semester in college I urge you to stick it out. That second semester makes Cath fighting through her fear of college totally worth it, both for her as the protagonist and for me as the reader.
I like Levi a lot. He’s such a genuine, happy, easy-going, wonderful human being and I love him. I’m too afraid to gush about him in my review because it’s just so much better to read it all unfold in the story. But also, I 100% agree with his opinion on alpacas:
“They’re like the world’s most adorable llamas. Like, imagine the cutest llama that you can, and then just keep going.” -Levi
Reagan is pretty cool too. The more I read the more I knew she was pretty awesome in her own intimidating but loyal way. Her first real conversation with Cath completely cracked me up:
“You’ve got Simon Snow heads on your desk,” Reagan said.
“Those are commemorative busts.”
“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”
“I don’t want to be your friend,” Cath said as sternly as she could. “I like that we’re not friends.”
“Me, too,” Reagan said. “I’m sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.”
I’m serious, Reagan and Levi might be my favorite characters in this book. Levi is the friendly easy-going type of guy while Reagan is the bold and confident dark horse and both of them are just what Cath needs in her life to pry her gently (if not forcefully) out of her careful little shell.
I like Cather and Wren (get it? Catherine?). The way their relationship spreads its wings is pretty usual for siblings, or even for just best friends when they go off to college. And as far as siblings go I love Levi’s analysis:
“You’re not the ugly one.” Levi grinned. “You’re just the Clark Kent.”
Both Superman and Clark Kent are awesome (and technically the same person), one just is bold and heroic for all while the other keeps his passion tucked inside for only the lucky to find. Anyway, watching Cath and Wren’s relationship ebb and flow, rise and fall, rage and flourish was really one of my favorite parts of this book. Okay, I had a lot of favorite parts, but this really was one of the highlights in my opinion. Just because they’re twins doesn’t mean they’re the same person, they stand out on their own but they’re unstoppable when they’re together.
Oh my, this review has really run on, hasn’t it? …I really feel like I’ve lost all hope of writing with any professional cohesion or eloquence for this review. I apologize. Thank goodness my blog is for “honest babble” yeah?
This book is cute, raw, dynamic, and real. Fangirl is a delightful journal through freshman year at college. Flowing with introverted fears, heart-wrenching challenges, gut-clenching choices, snort-inducing humor, and gentle romance, this story unfolds a truthful telling of a fangirl’s experience…as slated by Cath.
Purchase here: Fangirl
Meet Rainbow Rowell!
Rainbow Rowell writes books. Sometimes she writes about adults (ATTACHMENTS and LANDLINE). Sometimes she writes about teenagers (ELEANOR & PARK and FANGIRL). But she always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they’re screwing up. And people who fall in love.
When she’s not writing, Rainbow is reading comic books, planning Disney World trips and arguing about things that don’t really matter in the big scheme of things.
She lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.