Published by Wednesday Books
Released on September 10, 2013
When I give a thought to the most recommended young adult author to me, Rainbow Rowell is in the top three. So, it might have taken a few years for me to act on it, but I finally picked up the book that most caught my fancy. Oh course, a girl fanning over a book series seemed right up my alley.
Fangirl, a standalone young adult-new adult crossover story about young Cath who must now leave her sheltered and controlled make-believe world for the reality of college, social anxiety, a roommate, guys, classes, a dad struggling back home with mental health issues and a mom who abandoned her and her twin wanting back in her life.
Her twin sister, Wren, is adamant that she and Cath need to live separate lives starting with separate dorm rooms, classes, and social life- and no, Wren is not going to continue with their secret world of Simon Snow.
It’s all so overwhelming to a girl who lived her life stuck inside the books, movies, and fandom of her favorite book character where her FanFic posts are popular and she never had to engage much with others or bother with real life struggles.
Slowly and painfully, Cath comes out of her twin’s shadow and becomes her own woman, dealing with her anxieties, and a balance in her life.
Fangirl was an engaging story from the start and had several hilarious moments, but those were blended in with some deeper elements. Cath was the narrator and her blend of vulnerability, wit, and fretfulness caught me up from page one. I found myself relating with her deeply at times and shaking my head at others. Cath was somewhat tiring when she’d get caught up in things and I was ready to throw in the towel a few times, but…
Like most of us, she struggles with getting out of her own way and struggles to understand other people well. I consider myself a fan of a few different fandoms and have even written some fan fiction, but I’ve never taken it nearly as far as Cath. Then again, I’ve never had a reason to block out real life to that extent like she felt she did with what was going on in her family. It was her way of having some control over her life as a coping mechanism.
Her sister, Wren, was something else at first, but I sorta got where she was coming from, too, and she was young and struggling to understand her twin’s very real social anxiety and her dad’s bipolarism. But, as a side character story, she grew in the end just like Cath.
Then there was Levi. He was too sweet to be believed and was a light and fun element in Cath’s life as he tried hard to pry her out of her Simon Snow world long enough to enjoy life’s experiences. I wasn’t as fond that he was her crabby roommate’s boyfriend at first, but it wasn’t a cheating issue so much as he seemed to flit about. He turned out to be something more solid than Cath understood until late.
Okay, and the focal point of Cath’s life- her geeky fan obsession. Loved it! Not because of the way it kept her from engaging with real life, but just the world of fandom and her connection with other fans, going to late night book releases, making traditions out of the movies at home, collecting, and fan forums on line. It was so familiar and nostalgic to me.
There are so many real and relatable bits in this book though not all necessarily personally to me- her freshman year away at school, lots of different types of relationship learning experiences and struggles, making peace with a mother who abandoned her family when the twins were eight years old, and being the child of a parent with bi-polar disorder. In fact, the family element was what held my attention the most.
And, so, my first jaunt with Rainbow Rowell’s writing and this story had me impressed and I will definitely be reading the others of hers I have on my pile. I expected a light and even funny story which this was a little, but it dug deep and was thoughtful and emotional. While it read for an older Young Adult audience, I think that even older adults who don’t mind looking back on the unsettled days of late teen years and sometimes complicated family situations would enjoy Fangirl.
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