Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of Macmillan
Review copy provided by NetGalley
Cath and her twin sister, Wren, are huge fans of Simon Snow, and have spent much time in their middle school and high school years reading Simon Snow books, dressing up like the characters for movie premiers, and writing Simon Snow fan fiction. Now that they’re headed to college, Wren decided she’s over that phase in her life, and even goes so far as to say she doesn’t want to room with Cath at school. Cath feels completely alone as soon as she gets to college and continues to use fan fiction as a way to escape the realities of life: her moody roommate with a boyfriend who never leaves, a writing professor who continues to push Cath away from fan fiction and towards creating her own characters, and her father, who is all alone at home for the first time since she and Wren were born. The first year of college is a huge turning point for many people, and for Cath it’s both overwhelming and terrifying, as she navigates the world alone for the first time ever.
In my eyes, Rainbow Rowell can do no wrong, and Fangirl is just one more example of how true that statement is. Before I even begin to talk about this book, I have to direct you to Nymeth’s review, because I agree with everything she said and she says it much more eloquently than I can begin to myself.
For me, this was a coming-of-age novel at its best. Cath is the kind of character I identify with in the most honest and painful way – in my most difficult moments, I am just like her. I can be socially awkward, I get nervous meeting new people, I don’t “do” public speaking, I always feel like I’m the one in the room who isn’t in on the joke, all that stuff. She is lonely and alone and has trouble making friends, she feels that her one true friend, her twin sister, has abandoned her, and I remember feeling exactly that same way on my first day of college (substitute twin for best friend and roommate in my case). Thankfully, I have come a long way since being a shy teenager, but these feelings still crop up from time to time, it’s just part of my personality. So I think part of what I loved about this book so much is that I completely understood Cath and felt for her so deeply because of that understanding.
Besides my personal connection to the story and the main character, this is just such a well-written, true portrayal of so many things. The college experience, for one. The experience of writing and being involved with fan fiction, while not something I’m too familiar with myself, rang true to me. The fact that Cath and Wren have a father with mental illness that was depicted in such an authentic and not at all demeaning way was fantastic on Rowell’s part. The fact that they have a mother who left their family when the girls were young and Cath and Wren deal with this fact in two very different ways, neither of which is better or worse than the other, added another level of complexity to this story. Cath’s very slow-building relationship with her first real boyfriend was incredibly sweet and so fun to read about. And Rowell does something with dialogue that is just so real and right and, I don’t know how to explain it, but just feels so honest.
I’m very aware that the pile of gushing I just did is a sorry excuse for a review but just read this book, please and thank you. Rainbow Rowell is fantastic and I love her. The end.