Release Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
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? (courtesy of Goodreads.)
There are basic formulas for writing a fantastic book. Certain plot lines, specific character types, a map towards romance... As readers, we all say that we don't like reading overplayed tropes, but oftentimes, they really work. But no matter how well you follow the Awesome Book Formula, it is almost impossible to consciously create the "It" Factor. Neither an author nor a reviewer can adequately describe "It." "It" is an intangible quality that takes a book from great to truly special. The best image I can think of is a warm, buzzing feeling.
Fangirl has "It."
That's all you need to know. Now go read it.
While that is all you need to know, of course it's not all I'm going to say. Why use three words when you can use 800? Fangirl is about so many things. Coming of age. Starting college. Changing sibling relationship. Family drama. Friendship. Romance. Rainbow Rowell covers the gamut of young adult experience, but it never feels like she's just putting checkmarks on a list. Fangirl forms a complex, seamless whole.
Cather* is one of the most memorable main characters I've read in a long time. Unlike her twin sister Wren who dives headfirst into the college experience, Cather is terrified. She doesn't think she's ready for college. She's not ready for change of any sort. Over the course of the book, I kept thinking that Cather may not have been emotionally ready for college, but she *needed* it to grow up.
Fangirl is the only book I've ever read to delve deeply into fanfiction - the experience of writing it and the passions it can evoke. The book is interspersed with excerpts from the fictionalized Simon Snow books as well as Cather's fanfiction. The Simon Snow books are a hilariously bad take-off on Harry Potter (although Harry Potter might seem just as ridiculous taken out of context). Through Cather's love for fanfiction and the difference it makes in her life, Fangirl legitimizes fanfiction.
Romance is a part of Fangirl in the sense that it's a part of life. This is not a romance-centric novel, which I liked. It's a segment of Cather's life. Levi is a wonderful, quirky, sweet guy who you'll learn to love. He's an anti-hero of sorts, because he makes mistakes that most love interests do not. He is very human.
This is not always a fun book to read. Cather's life is not all bunnies and roses. In fact, it's sheer misery for much of the book. Cather is awkward, anti-social, shy, depressed, terrified, sad, and many other negative emotions for much of this book. She sees the world through gray colored glasses and it looks like it's falling to pieces around her.
Fangirl is difficult to review. It's a wonderfully written, well-rounded look at a beautiful, damaged girl's life. Thinking back on it doesn't fill me with the surface-level giddiness that I often get from books I enjoy. Rather, it brings to mind the deep sometimes bittersweet feelings of a book that has etched itself permanently into my soul.
*Cather goes by Cath, but I love the name Cather so much that I refer to her that way. She's named after the author Willa Cather. It's pronounced Cath-er not, Cay-ther (I tweeted Rainbow to ask). Turns out I've been mispronouncing Willa Cather's name for years.
Rating: 5 / 5
Here's How to Buy the Book!