Pages: 448 Copyright: 2013
The official 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. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fanfiction, 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 fanfiction 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?”
Rainbow Rowell’s most unique virtue is her ability to capture the unpredictability of real life. While reading Fangirl, I wasn’t sure for a long time who the love interest was going to be, or if Cath would even end up with anyone by the end. I wasn’t sure which problems would be resolved, or how, or what those problems would be in the first place. It was like watching an actual life, unwritten, being scripted as it goes. It was very authentic and fresh. It’s almost like Rainbow Rowell is from a world without novels, and her mind is clear of all the fiction trope ruts that the rest of us are unable to avoid following, striking off down brand-new paths.
Along the same lines, Rowell’s characters are reasonable, and they don’t make weird, stupid decisions that any sane reader can see were mistakes. For instance, without spoiling anything, a character who seems to be friendly turns out to be no good; and as a reader, I’m always on the lookout for the antagonists of the story, so I’m not going to say I had no suspicions. But I could perfectly imagine myself, in Cath’s shoes, falling for the deception just like she did. I was almost as surprised as she was, and there was no “well, duh” moment. Cath’s problems had legitimate, believable reasons to be problems, even if that reason was just that she has anxiety and can’t deal with things. That’s skillful.
Actually, everything about Fangirl followed that same theme. FRESH. The plot was fresh. I loved the focus on the world of fandoms and fan fiction! It made Cath so interesting and put such a good twist on the tired old nerdy-girl motif— yes, she was painfully shy and wore glasses and ponytails every day, but at the same time, online, she was a celebrity. How cool is that? And there are probably lots of books written about college freshmen, but I’ve read hardly any; and as a current high school senior, it was a very appealing subject to me. With all the bitter-sweetness of leaving high school, it’s nice to remember that I have something new about to begin, too. The cast of characters was fabulously fresh. I’m not sure there was a stereotype to be found, and everybody was complex and alive. Again, and I can’t hammer this enough: Rainbow Rowell doesn’t Write Fiction, she just tells stories that happen to not be factually true.
Fangirl is well-written, cute and romantic, extremely relatable (I related to Cath in a lot of ways, and the fact that things good things happen to her despite her flaws was uplifting), totally original, and impossible to put down. I complained that Eleanor and Park made me sad; Fangirl did not make me sad, although it certainly had meaning and depth. Rainbow Rowell brings something to YA that nobody else does, and I look forward to reading more from her.
P.S., why are all her covers so cute! I love the art.