PN 3443 → Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl / Rainbow Rowell
Publishing details: This book was first published in September 2013 by St. Martin's Press.
Source: my local library

Synopsis: 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 Re-reading. 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 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? [Blurb taken from Goodreads]

I've been hearing excellent things recently about Rainbow Rowell from friends and colleagues, so I thought it was about time to try her out. I dove into Fangirl and, quite honestly, thoroughly enjoyed it enough to finish reading it in less than 24 hours. I inhaled this book. A look at college life seems to be in no short supply these days with the rise of the New Adult genre, but Rowell takes a refreshing perspective on the theme. Through the character of Cath, Rowell has keyed in on the anxiety that can occur when thrust into new situations. Here's Cath's running monologue on the perils of the dining hall:
In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can't google.) Like, where does the line start? What food can you take? Where are you supposed to stand, then where are supposed to sit? Where do you go when you're done, why is everyone watching you? ... Bah. -- p. 15
Cath may be anxiety-prone and hesitant of new things, but there is no shortage of snark with her.  She is not meek by any means. Another thing I loved about this book was Rowell's ability to be absolutely on-point about fandom. From posting update messages on forums right down to the titles of Cath's fics (e.g., Five Times Baz Went to Chemistry and One Time He Didn't) -- Rowell just seems to get fandom and the world of fanfic.

When I first picked this book up off the library holds shelf I was a little taken aback about how thick it was. Surely a book about something so light and fluffy as fan fiction couldn't be this long? But, as it turns out, this book is about so much more. While Cath's adventures in fandom are an integral part of the plot, the book also tackles much more serious topics such as mental health issues, growing up and apart from a sibling, and plagiarism. This book doesn't beat you over the head with morals, though, and it was a relief to know that not everything was tied up in a neat little bow at the end of the book. As Cath herself says, "That's up to you. It doesn't say."

All in all, Fangirl was an excellent and enjoyable read. It strikes a good balance of light and serious, and the heroine was eminently relatable for me. Now, I'm off to read the rest of Rowell's backlist!

Rating: 4.5/5

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