“Fangirl” Rainbow Rowell
“Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, everybody is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath it’s something more. Fandom is life. It’s what got her and her sister, Wren, through losing their mom. It’s what kept them close.
And now that she’s starting college, introverted Cath isn’t sure what’s supposed to get her through. 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?” – Front Cover, “Fangirl”
So I had been looking at this book for a while; in stores, online, but I always hesitated to buy it, or even borrow it from the library. Why you ask? Well, with a name like “Fangirl” it has a lot to live up to. I am a fangirl. A heavily dedicated, funko buying, fanfiction writing, talk about it to people who don’t even know what it is fangirl. So if I were going to commit myself to reading a book about me and my people then it had to be a good book. It had to be loving, and honest. It couldn’t be condescending and judgmental. It couldn’t be vague and fake. I didn’t want to read 400 pages of someone making fun of me, or worse, trying to act like they got it just so they could fit in to nerd chic and make money off of what was trendy. So I hesitated for about three years. Then I found myself at The Strand book store (for those of you who don’t know it’s a really famous bookstore in New York City) and I came upon the book again. I searched the entire store from Occult gems to Historical non-fiction but I kept coming back to my heart and soul at YA fiction. I carried “Fangirl” around for about half an hour while I browsed and finally my traveling partner asked if we were ready to go – still holding the book I nodded. I bought it. We left and checked the comic book store before heading back to the farmers market. But I digress.
I had every intention of reading it but then the Election was happening and I was focused on our country not going to shite. (Spoiler alert, it did). I wanted an escape. I wanted to feel like the world didn’t exist for a little while. My instinct was to read Harry Potter because he can usually cheer me up. But then I saw “Fangirl” sitting on my nightstand so I finally cracked the book open this weekend. I read the first twenty or thirty pages on Friday but I wasn’t hooked yet and I had gotten used to going to bed early (well, before midnight) so I favoured sleep over reading. Then Saturday night because I’m a crazy and wild girl I was in my room by dusk and needed a break from the world (again) so I opened the book.
I’m very glad I opened that book.
I wasn’t sure at first if I liked the way Rowell goes from Fantasy to Reality (because it was too much like my own head and I’m not sure how I feel about anything happening in there). Then I found myself getting just as addicted to the fantasy as the reality. I loved all the characters, they were all realistic, Cath and Wren (twins in case you didn’t read the description quoted in the beginning) were a polarization but not in a cliché Gemini way. Wren was carved realistically into this world, and Cath… Cath was me. I’m sure that Rowell wrote this this way on purpose – to relate to all the fangirls out there – but it worked. The social anxiety, the constantly re-purposing characters in your head. Comparing everything you’re doing to how you’ve written it! I just.. It didn’t feel insulting. It didn’t feel condescending. It felt like a love letter.
Every character had parts that they were made up of that didn’t define them (anxiety, panic, ocd, bi-polar) but none of these were ever what the character was about and I love, love, loved that. I love the idea of living in a world where people are not their disorders, their genders, their colors, their sexual orientation; where everyone is free to be them and that’s not who they are. It was subtle but this little bit of character development meant the world to me. It would be so easy to make Cath a nerdy shut in who hates people because she was always made fun of for being smart – or something cliche, but Rowell didn’t do that. She had reasons, and logic for every character choice. Or maybe I applied the reason and logic but either way Rowell crafted the web and I was caught in it.
My one “mad” takeaway is one of the main characters names is Levi – which if anyone knows the novel I’m writing so is mine – he was also named after the Old Testament – which so was mine. It was so coincidental that my jaw dropped, I debated changing my characters name (I won’t), and then I wanted to hug Rowell because obviously we share a brain and I need to be her friend.
So yes, I recommend this book. I also recommend being a fangirl/boy first – it’ll probably make it more relatable. I have now borrowed “Carry On” from the library and plan to read that as soon as time allows. I do have to focus on NaNo for a little while since the first weekend I was at Supernatural Con and the second weekend I was dealing with the aftermath of our country’s extremely poor decision making skills. Of course next week is Thanksgiving. So I’ve really got to buckle down now and focus. Best not to get (more) lost in the world of Simon and Baz right now. But I’m looking forward to getting lost in that world soon.
Happy Reading and Happy Nano!