by Rainbow Rowell
The Simon Snow books have brought together Cath and Wren through the ups and downs of their lives.
Cath, specifically, has found a home in the Simon Snow fandom – writing incredibly popular fanfiction to an adoring audience that includes twin Wren.
But it’s time for college. And Wren wants to test out being an individual, away from her twin and Simon Snow. Cath is at a crossroads and must determine which road she will take as the last Simon Snow novel nears.
I loved Rowell’s debut, Eleanor and Park, but I loved Fangirl more.
I started Fangirl on a red-eye from Ohio to Seattle and finished it on the flight from Seattle up to FBX. Because, at the time, I was living in Alaska, I had some frequent flyer miles to bump me up to first class on that first leg. And I can now tell you – First Class Passengers will give you pretty significant side-eye when you spontaneously giggle/burst into tears during a red-eye. So, apologies to those strangers. (FWIW, the second flight I sat next to a sleeping child [the easiest way to find me on a flight is to look for a sleeping child] who didn’t seem to mind my weeping/laughter. So that worked out.)
BUT IT WAS WORTH THE SIDE-EYE, PEOPLE.
As usual, let’s just lay this all out on the table: there was a lot about this book that was going to make me like it. Twins. Fandoms. Fanfiction. Transitioning from High School to College. Mean roommates with a heart of gold. Cute boys.
That is a very long list of Things I Like to Read About.
But what, in the end, really made me adore Fangirl? Cath’s insecurities. Well, really just Cath as a whole. There was a lot I could relate to in Cath. (Wren, no one will be surprised, drove me bonkers.) I loved how slowly she adjusted to her new way of life. And how much she tried to cling to her old way of life. I loved watching her struggle with coming out of her comfort zone and taking risks and chances. (See above re: transitioning from HS to College. I work with freshman. Part of my job is helping people grow into adults.) She gets a lot wrong on her way to figuring out how to, maybe, get it right.
And I loved the fandom spin. Again, some frankness. You don’t see a LOT of the fandom in this book (there aren’t any cons, or really in depth interactions with fellow fans, etc.). And Simon Snow is, essentially, Harry Potter’s dimensional twin. But what I loved about the fandom element in Fangirl was Cath’s use of it as a security blanket and crutch. And how she clearly defined herself as a fangirl but kept her prominent position in that social group hidden away from the new life she was supposed to be exploring. Such an interesting contradiction.
(Let’s not even talk about the whole storyline of Cath and her professor on plagiarism, borrowing creative ideas and original works vs. fanfiction. It DELIGHTED me.)(And it was way more interesting than how boring I made it sound, btw.)
Rowell showed in E&P her deft handling of relationships that were mostly familial or romantic in nature. I think Fangirl showed how well she is able to capture other types of relationships (roommates, friendships, classmates, etc.) in addition to the family and romantic ones.
And, as I look back on reading it, I’m so impressed with how complex the storyline is. Maybe one could argue that it is too complex – there are a lot of storyline threads weaving through this novel – but I thought it made it well-rounded. I thought, for sure, a certain, cliche ending scene was the end of the book and was THRILLED when I discover I still had roughly 80 pages left.
I just really, really liked this book. It left a very warm spot in my heart and I cannot stop recommending it.