Published by St. Martin's Press on September 10th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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From the author the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park
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?
This book, you guys, my god. I want to marry this book. I want to have children with it, I want to grow old and die with it wrapped lovingly in my arms knowing that we’ve had a long and happy life together. After reading Eleanor & Park, I pre-ordered this book knowing that there was pretty much no way I wouldn’t like it. I thought I was prepared. Much like Jon Snow, I knew nothing.
If you don’t wish to read a lengthy testament to the glories of Fangirl, allow me to sum up my feelings on this book in a gif:
I basically did that exact thing over and over again while reading.
Rainbow Rowell is clearly some wondrous sort of word wizard. She writes with exquisite precision, every word feels exactly right and placed just so for maximum impact. She captures life and people with such pinpoint accuracy, from the mundane everyday concerns we all deal with, to the delightfully bizarre thoughts that float through all of our heads. Even if you haven’t experienced the specific situation she’s describing you still find something to relate to. Maybe it’s just me but she makes the reader feel like she is writing specifically to them, like this is their story as much as Cath’s. It’s comforting and beautiful and shows incredible insight into humanity.
“Your characters quiver, Cath, like they’re trying to evolve right off the page.”
When Cath’s professor says this, it’s as though she was describing Rowell’s own writing. I love every person in this book, the good, the bad, even the extras (books have extras, right?) They all feel so unbelievably real. They are perfect and flawed and each one feels like an actual person that is out there. I want to find all of them and make them my friends. Even the peripheral characters are unique in their own small ways.
Cath is every awkward girl’s spirit animal. Her anxiety and uncertainty are familiar and heartwarming. She is not a perfect character, she freaks out, she makes bad decisions sometimes, but if any of you think you haven’t done that over the course of your life, I don’t believe you. Watching her come into her own as the story unfolds is a thing of beauty. She learns to be more independent, to navigate adult relationships, to stand up for herself and most importantly, to embrace who she is. I think that might be my favorite thing, she doesn’t undergo some transformation that makes her a perfectly well-adjusted adult. Though she undeniably grows as a character, she is still Cath at the end of the book just Cath with a better idea of herself. That’s such an important message to teach young adults, you don’t have to be anyone but who you are. You are your own unique, special snowflake, love yourself for it.
The people in Cath’s life are equally well-rounded. Reagan, her roommate, is a force of nature. The way she deals with Cath’s eccentricities are laugh-out-loud hilarious. I love everything about her to pieces. The Avery family dynamic is brilliant. Wren, Cath’s twin sister, is such a sister, that’s the only way I can put it. My sister has been both Wren and Cath to me, and vice versa at different points in our lives. During their shared moments my fingers were itching to call her. I settled for ordering her a copy of the book and telling her to text me as she reads. Cath’s dad, the poor mad bastard, is at times brilliant and at others tragic. Their family definitely has issues, and much like life those issues are not wrapped up in a tidy package by the end of the book, but that’s ok because that’s reality.
Then there is the romance. OH. MY. GOD.
It is incredibly difficult, but I’m not going to tell you guys about it. It’s too good. I don’t want to spoil a moment. I want you all to be able to read it for yourselves with no expectations or spoilers. Just know that it is possibly the most swoonworthy love story I have ever read. It is pure delight, even when it’s not. I take notes when I read, and most of my notes having to do with Cath and her love interest are all-caps and involve the words I’M DYING and OMGOMGOMGOMG. One reads “I think I may have actually ruptured an internal organ, I don’t think the human nervous system is meant to ship this hard.” I have to stop now or I am going to tell you guys about it despite my resolve.
Another thing that I loved about this book was the fanfiction aspect, which I recognize it won’t resonate with everyone. Confession time, I love fanfiction, I’ve been reading it since I was 13. It started with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom and has just gone on from there. I completely empathize with Cath’s stance on fanfic. I read it for the same reasons she writes it; to continue the story, to right wrongs done to characters or ships left unshipped. In the acknowledgments, Rainbow Rowell says she wrote this book after reading a lot of fanfiction and it shows. Fanfiction can be a hard thing to talk to people about, I have only recently been able to own up to reading it. Unless they are also into fanfic, 95% of the world seems to think you are a weird, obsessive type with a loose grip on reality (whether this is true or not is neither here nor there.) Rowell understands and does a remarkable job explaining how wonderful and cathartic fanfiction communities can be. Fangirl is in some small part a love letter to the hardcore citizens of fandoms and as one, I love that so much.
The worst part of this book is that it ended. It’s not that anything was unresolved, it was perfect to the last word. It’s the worst because there is no more. (But hey, that’s what fanfic is for! Please tell me someone is on this.) Do yourself a service and please go out and read this book right now, you will not regret it, that’s all I can say.