by Rainbow Rowell
Published: 10 September 2013
St. Martin’s Griffin, Hardcover, 438 pages
A coming-of-age tale of fanfiction, family, and first love.
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, 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? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Finishing Fangirl was like stepping out of a vibrant and incredible reality into a much duller one. Throughout the book, I felt like I was living Cath’s life and not reading at all! The only times where I did felt like I was reading written work were the parts with extracts from Cath & Wren’s fanfiction or the Simon Snow novels. Somehow, Rowell has the ability to create a heartwarming and incredible story without needing any extravagant plot twists or adrenaline-filled action.
I found this novel an utterly relatable read because I, myself, am a fangirl too (I don’t write fanfic like Cath does though). It made me wonder whether – or when – I would outgrow the fandoms that mean so much to me right now. Honestly, it’s a scary prospect because like Cath, I have a few fandoms that I invest a lot of time in and being a fangirl is one of the things I know how to do best. Basically, I found Fangirl utterly thought-provoking and I think anyone who is invested in any fandom would understand too.
Due to the complete realism of Fangirl, I actually found it hard to rate it because it felt like rating reality. And really, how can you rate real life and living in general? Because that was exactly what this novel was like – living. The characters were all so vibrant and palpable; sometimes it seemed as if I could simply step into the novel and start a conversation with them!
One of my favorite aspects of this novel was its imperfect characters. Not a single person in the story was physically faultless and although it was a little odd for me not to picture Levi, Cath and everyone else as flawless angels at first, I loved it anyway because it made them so real. That probably contributed a major part to the thin veil between the book and reality.
As for the romance, it was stunningly endearing. Forget great romantic gestures; Levi and Cath were all the little details that added up to one amazing first love affair. Their relationship didn’t feel like a love story, it was more like something that could actually happen to you or anyone you know. That, however, did not make it any less romantic than other epic tales of love. In fact, it made it more so!
Fangirl was not simply a romantic story, it contained so much more. I loved how Cath grew and learned with every little event during her freshman year in college despite not wanting anything to change. Her struggle with growing up and moving on is something everyone have faced, is facing, or will face one day and Rowell beautifully showed that sometimes, we just need to let go and carry on (no pun intended).
Overall, Fangirl was a refreshing and unique read, different from any other contemporary novel I’ve read. Simply but poignantly written, it is a wonderful story that can touch the hearts of many different kinds of people because it emphasizes on feelings and experiences most of us have in common. Therefore, I would recommend this enchanting novel to anyone and everyone and really look forward to reading more of Rainbow Rowell’s books!