Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a standalone young adult novel that follows Cath through her freshman year of college. For the first time in her life, she’s away from home and not living with her identical twin sister, forcing her to break from her usual pattern and find a place of her own – as a college student, an artist, a friend, and a sister.
Before I jump into the review, I feel like I should say that this wasn’t a perfect book, but the story really resonated with me. It’s a young adult novel in pretty much every sense, and the story is about the journey. There is a lot of dialogue, personal struggle, and growth. Because of that, if you don’t connect with the journey you won’t connect with the book. I don’t think this story is for everyone, but it is for me, and it might be for you, too.
“Look at you. All sweatered up. What are those, leg sweaters?”
“They’re leg warmers.”
“You’re wearing at least four different kinds of sweater.”
“This is a scarf.”
“You look tarred and sweatered.”
The first thing I really enjoyed about this book was the writing. The narrative kept me going from start to finish, and it is full of witty, adorable dialogue. This kind of writing is one of my favorite things about a lot of YA novels.
The element of Cath’s story that spoke to me the most was her struggle with creating her own literary worlds. She’s an artist, but she doesn’t think she can be one outside of the scope of Simon Snow, her fandom of choice. She feels that real writers create new worlds starting from nothing, and she doesn’t know how to do that. I wish this book had been around when I was a teenager. I could have learned along with Cath that being an artist isn’t about creating something entirely original from nothing. Our experiences influence everything we do.
Lastly, I loved the presence of fanfiction in the story – not the excerpts, but the fact that it was such a big part of Cath’s life. I remember my own days of furiously reading Harry Potter fanfiction and midnight release events, and Cath’s story is full of nostalgia for me. I loved that Rowell included fanfiction as a complex and wonderful phenomenon, rather than a silly or childish hobby.
Speaking of the Simon Snow fanfiction, Rowell has written her own version of Simon and Baz’s story! It is called Carry On, and it’s not quite canon and not quite fanfiction, but it is 384 pages of Simon and Baz fighting evil and falling in love. The release date is October 6th, 2015!