Genre: Bildungsroman, Fiction
Book Jacket 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 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? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?”
Review: Hats off to you, Rainbow Rowell. As I predicted at the end of my Eleanor and Park (https://bannedbookbrigade.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/bonus-book-eleanor-and-park-by-rainbow-rowell/) review, I had a sneaking suspicion that I would enjoy Fangirl. That suspicion was confirmed just a few chapters into the book. If I had to decipher the root of my affection for this novel, I think it would come down to excellent, excellent character development. I don’t know that everyone will love Cath as a narrator and protagonist. She is socially incompetent, completely and happily isolated in her world of Simon Snow and fan fiction. Her identical twin sister, Wren, and her bipolar father are the only two people who have ever successfully coaxed Cath out of her coveted isolation. But when she gets to college and finds that Wren is hell-bent on gaining some independence, she cuts herself off from everything except classes and Simon Snow. Her isolation is short-lived, however, when her blunt and surly roommate, Reagan, begins to pity her and somewhat grudgingly draws Cath under her wing. My reasons for identifying with both Cath and Reagan are vastly different. With Cath, the “crazy” in her reminds me a lot of the crazy in me. Her social anxiety, tendency towards jealousy, and ability to completely disappear in an imaginary world all ring true to certain traits of my own. And with Reagan, I couldn’t help but laugh almost every time she interacted with Cath. The quotes below are some of my favorite from Fangirl and all of them belong to Reagan.
“If God put me into your life to keep you from wearing a fucking tail,” Reagan said, “I accept the assignment.”
“If he were still my boyfriend, we’d have to throw down. But he’s not. So let’s go have lunch, okay?”
“He talks about you like you’re something he found in a natural history museum.”
Cath: “Have you been watching me sleep?” Reagan: “Yes, Bella. Are you awake?”
All in all, I can understand why Rainbow Rowell fans herald Fangirl as her defining and most successful work. It’s one of the best-told and realistic coming-of-age stories I have ever read, and I am sure it will be one that I reread many times in the years to come.