Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Published: 10 September 2013 (Macmillan Children's Books)
Buy the e-book: Kindle|Kobo
Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
I've heard great things about Rainbow Rowell's books and they've been on my wishlist for a while. When I won a copy of Fangirl I was over the moon! Fangirl tells the story of Cather, a devotee of the Simon Snow book series and writer of Simon Snow fanfiction, as she starts college and has to juggle being a freshman and being a fangirl.
So I was already excited by the subject matter of that book, and that excitement level only went up once I actually started it. Because this book is just so me. I think anyone who's been involved with any kind of online fandom will absolutely adore this book because it just stirred up so many memories of experiences I've had in my own life, and it had all these little references that made me squeal. I mean a main character who writes fanfiction?! I'm still so happy that Fangirl has made that a thing. I actually had to text my friend and recommend her this book as I was reading it because she writes fanfiction and I just felt the need to let her know this book existed. Plus I have a confession: I have written fanfiction. And you know what? In the past that has been something that I've hidden from people because I was embarrassed. Not anymore. In fact reading this book has made me want to log into my sadly neglected fanfiction.net account, find a load of new fics to read and then finish writing all my unfinished fics.
So Fangirl was already off to a pretty good start. Then I got to know the main character, Cather, and well I just fell in love with this book a whole lot more. Not only is Cath a fangirl with a huge talent at writing fanfiction, she is also shy, socially awkward and completely lovable. I just felt this affinity with her straight away because I share her worrying nature. Like there's this thing in the book where she's too scared to go to the dining hall because she doesn't know where it is and she's too scared to ask and she's worried that even if she did know where it was and went there that she wouldn't know how the system worked and she'd get something wrong. I instantly recognised that thought process from myself when facing new social situations. I mean sometimes life is just too confusing! I was just relieved I'm not alone when it comes to this kind of thing and Fangirl gave me the ability to laugh at myself and the ridiculous-ness of it all.
There's also the fact that Cath is a twin, and is sort of living in the shadow of her sister Wren. Wren is determined to be more independent now that the two of them have started college, so Cath kind of gets left behind as Wren goes off and has the confidence to make new friends and do new things. I loved how the relationship between them had its ups and downs. There's that great theme of discovering yourself and growing up and trying to make it in the big wide world. I really felt for Cath as she struggles to adjust to all those changes. Plus I was just totally excited to read a book about twins. I've secretly always wanted to be a twin. I blame The Parent Trap. I love books focused on sister relationships too because they make me think about the relationship I have with my own sister.
So this review is already turning out to be a lot of gushing and I haven't even got to Levi yet. I love Levi. He and Cath are so different yet they have such brilliant chemistry. When Cath starts college she's kind of a bit hopeless with boys. She's with her current boyfriend Abel because he's a safe choice, but finally she's starting to have her eyes opened to the lovely guys out there. And Levi is one of them. I loved that he takes the time to talk to her and get to know her, and that he really brings out the best in her. He's caring and thoughtful and hilarious. I think he gets safely bumped to the top of my "favourite male characters" list. I adored Cath's roommate Reagan too. She's so full of attitude and has that wicked brutal honesty.
Whilst the characters were a huge strong point for me, the plot also kept my attention all the way through. There's some really heartbreaking moments as well as some really uplifting ones. I loved the journey Cath and her family go on throughout the book, especially the relationship with the girls and their dad. Not everything is plain sailing and there's some testing times. The book has this great build up with both the end of the school year and the final Simon Snow book release coinciding, so all the time you kind of see everything working towards those two points.
I loved that there were little snippets of the Simon Snow books as well as Cath's fanfiction dotted throughout the book between chapters. I think it helped me get caught up in Cath's world and experience what she was going through with those characters. I also really liked the fact that Cath was an aspiring writer who was struggling to break out of writing just fanfiction. So many aspiring writers like myself start out with fanfiction so it was something I could really relate to.
Getting back onto the topic of fandom, I just loved being able to relate to all of it. When Cath was putting her Simon Snow posters up in her dorm room, I was looking up at my Harry Potter ones on my wall. I feel like Rowell has tapped into that world perfectly in a way that really makes me proud to have been so wrapped up in a fandom like Cath is. Of course you can see all the Harry Potter parallels in the book which makes it even more brilliant.
I can't tell you how heartbroken I was to finish this book. I just loved spending time with the characters so much that I didn't want it to end! I got so caught up in every part of Cath's life, to the point where I was dying for the last Simon Snow book to come out in the story so I could see her reaction to it. And it's so rare that a book leaves me wanting to really act upon the feelings I had whilst reading it. Like I said, it's made me want to go and inhale a load of fanfic so I'm going to go and do that right now. Oh and I wish I was a twin even more badly now. I feel like Rowell has captured so many wonderful things about fandom so accurately, as well as creating this wonderful story I couldn't bare to put down. I'll be reading more of her work in the future, that's for sure!
What to read next: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Books like this: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil