I was shocked when I got my copy from the library and it was so, well, big. Threatens-the-monstrosity-that-is-a-600-page-biography-tome-about-Steve-Jobs big. This is why I am even more impressed that I read the last half of it in one day.
The only serious complaint about this book is the inclusion of Cath’s fanfiction world in Fangirl. While it certainly related back to the actual characters in the story, it felt entirely unnecessary and added extra length that didn’t benefit our understanding of the plot or the characters. Mostly, I felt like I was reading a self-promotion for Rowell’s next book, Carry On, which to my understanding takes place in the same world as the fiction stories included within Fangirl. A little meta is interesting, but pages long diversions from the main plot of Fangirl struck me as silly.
Coming of Age
At first, I was pretty put off by the main character Cath for the same reasons the people around her were; she’s shy, awkward, and has absolutely no life outside of her computer. In a beautiful coming of age story, however, Cath is quickly forced to grow from an insecure teenager into a young adult. Rainbow Rowell gets major bonus points for not forcing Cath to give up her identity as a fanfiction writer, for not giving her a physical makeover, and for not letting Cath forgive her mother, as there were many opportunities for her to do all three.
I appreciate the deliberate way Rowell wrote about social anxiety, bipolar disorder, and even just introverts in general. The experiences were relatable – walking down the same hallway three times but never actually turning into the room you need, forgoing real food because it means interacting with new people and situations. As an introvert, I loved the fact that Rowell’s other characters coaxed Cath out of hiding, yet still allowed her to be herself and delve into her passions.
Bermuda Love Triangle
There was definitely supposed to be some sort of love triangle between Cath, Nick, and Levi, or maybe Cath, Reagan, and Levi, but I never felt it. Cath’s interest in Nick was always shallow and his in return was entirely nonexistent. While I didn’t see Levi and Cath getting together right from the get-go, there was also little to no indication that Regean was trying to keep Levi for herself.
As a side note, I also loved the name play with Cath + Wren which works back perfectly for twins. Did anyone else think of the Greek mythology of humans originally having 4 arms and 4 legs? It also speaks leagues about how unprepared their mother was for motherhood.
Fangirl receives 4.5 stars for being an addictive, realistic story about the woes of becoming an adult, wading through love and academics, all while managing mental health.
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?