Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I saw the summary for Fangirl I knew I had to have it. You see… I’m a fangirl.
Or at least I’ve been one. (haven’t we all though?) And some of you even know me from the Fan Fiction world. There… I said it. I’ve written and read Fan Fiction.
Fangirl is Cather’s story. She’s an identical twin and starting her first year of college. But nothing is as she had expected it to be. She expected very little to change when she moved out of her house into the dorms. See, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. She’s also a Simon Snow fan fiction writer. She writes a story called Carry On and it’s one of the most popular fanfic’s out there, with thousands of readers and hits a day. She has always had her sister in her corner, pushing her when she needs it, reading through chapters to help her plot out her ideas and offering her a shoulder to lean on when she needs that emotional support. You see, when you’re a twin, you’re never alone. (I can attest to this as well, being an identical twin myself!) You always have that other person to lean on, to depend on and to confide in. But what happens when that one person pulls away from you and you find yourself starting a new part of your life all on your own.
Wren decides that she doesn’t want to room with Cather and she decides that she is going to live it up in her freshman year, attending parties and dating and having all the experiences that she thinks she should be having as well as pulling away from the combined identity that she’s had for the last 18 years, and hopefully becoming her own person. Unfortunately for Cath that means she is losing the one person she could trust and count on for the last 18 years of her life.
I have to say that this was probably the hardest part for me to read. It took me back to my first year of college where I chopped all my hair off, and traipsed off to a different college than my twin and after 18 years together… wearing the same clothes, sharing the same room, sharing the same friends… We parted ways. It was a huge adjustment and I could identify with both Cath and Wren on some level… that sudden loneliness yet that desire to explore who you might be without that other person always there to lean on. While I don’t think it was quite as extreme for me and my twin, it was still a similar experience and Rowell captured it perfectly.
While reading this, I couldn’t help but adore Cath. She’s dedicated to the things she loves. Her family, her sister and even Simon Snow. She never hides or apologizes for loving Simon Snow. But you also realize that she is missing out on so many things while she shuts herself into her room to write, never making new friends or experiencing all the things that college has to offer.
At least that is until her roommate Reagan takes her under her wing. After a month of basically ignoring each other, Reagan drags her outside to the real world finally showing her where the dining hall is. It’s slow progress for Cath, who eventually comes out of her shell, but I actually really loved the friendship between Reagan and her.
”You don’t have any friends, your sister dumped you, you’re a freaky eater… And you’ve got some weird thing about Simon Snow.”
“I object to every single thing you just said.”
Reagan chewed. And frowned. She was wearing dark red lipstick.
“I have lots of friends,” Cath said
“I never see them.”
“I just got here. Most of my friends went to other schools. Or they’re online. “
“Internet friends don’t count.”
Reagan shrugged disdainfully.
“And I don’t have a weird thing for Simon Snow,” Cath said. “I’m just really active in the fandom.”
“What the fuck is ‘the fandom’?”
“You wouldn’t understand,” Cath sighed, wishing she hadn’t used that world, knowing that if she tried to explain herself any further, it would just make it worse. Reagan wouldn’t believe – or understand – that Cath wasn’t just a Simon fan. She was one of the fans. A first name only fan with fans of her own.
With Reagan comes Levi.
”He was tall and thin and tan, and he looked like he’d just taken off a stocking cap, dark blond hair flopping in every direction.
Levi is the boy who seems to have a smile for everyone and he’s so lovely. I mean… at one point I was prepared to dislike him immensely (oh you know when Rainbow!!) but I just couldn’t. He has this way about him and Rowell writes him perfectly… he’s not perfect, he’s not the football quarterback, and he doesn’t have the full gorgeous, wavy head of hair, but he is so charismatic and he just jumps off the page and into your heart and I found myself falling for him just the same. (The job at Starbucks definitely weighed heavily). The way he reaches out to Cath and the sweet things he does… I challenge you to try not to fall for him.
Now, if you were watching my status updates, you may have noticed I was laughing loudly for most of the first half of this story because to be perfectly honest, Rainbow captures exactly, the fan fiction community … at least the one I’ve been a part of for years, in this story.
There were a bunch of new comments on her page all people wringing their hands because Cath hadn’t posted a new chapter of carry on yesterday.
I know, I know… some of you are like WTF is Fan Fiction… Rainbow explains why people dabble in fan fiction wonderfully:
The whole point of fan fiction,” she said, “is that you get to play inside somebody else’s universe. Rewrite the rules. Or bend them.
As both a reader and a writer, you get the opportunity to continue a story with characters you love twisting them around to tell a completely different story and while some may not get the draw to that, I can. And that made me appreciate this story, and Cath as a character so much more. The fact that Rowell has created a fan fiction story within this story is ingenious. I was just as intrigued by Baz & Simon as I was with Cath, Levi, Wren and Reagan.
But in all honesty, that is only a small part of what this story is truly about. There are some wonderful life lessons in this book, and Rowell tackles them in an honest and captivating way without being preachy or after school special like. I’m not going to get too much into the different parts of the story because I don’t want to spoil this for anyone, but ultimately it’s about finding yourself and learning to trust… being there for the people you love, and taking chances on people even if you’ve been burned in the past.
Cath’s journey in her first year of college is a wonderful read and Rowell creates interesting, believable, and imperfect characters that you can’t help but fall in love with. She tells a story that is both laugh out loud funny at times and heartbreakingly sad and real at other times. Each one of the characters is wonderfully developed and I found myself connecting with each of them in different ways.
I’ve already put this book on my ‘must buy’ shelf and I can’t tell you enough how much you need to pick this one up when it comes out in September.
Hey Rainbow… “I like you.”
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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