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? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Well – this sure was unexpected! As a YA Contemporary read, I was initially sceptical over picking Fangirl up; contemporary isn’t usually my preferred genre as I’m far too much of an escapist to fall in love with it. However! I’m getting over this aversion pretty quickly, and boy, aren’t I pleased about it. It’s also quite important to note that Fangirl is my first Rainbow Rowell read. Rainbow’s other YA book, Eleanor & Park, is high up on my TBR pile after hearing so, so many glowing reviews and after receiving countless recommendations to read it. I’m surprised I’ve been able to resist reading any of Rainbow’s beautifully written books so far!
Yet, I was drawn to the gorgeous cover of Fangirl and the lighthearted, cute premise. Rainbow Rowell truly comes up with a unique and shockingly relatable plot in this book; the world of fanfiction, especially for many book lovers such as myself, is a world that we’ve all stumbled into and are very aware of. Rowell injects excellently crafted pop culture references and laugh-out-loud humour into what could have been an average college love story.
Our protagonist, Cath, is not immediately a likable character – she’s withdrawn, insular and enclosed – and pretty unrelatable initially. Yet, this soon changed! Rowell’s effortless character development for Cath was one of the highlights of the book for me – to quote the book, I was definitely “rooting” for Cath to come out of her shell and to explore life beyond the realms of fiction. Cath’s humour was a delight to read but as was her strength; Cath is not only our main character, but she is the support system for the rest of the characters in the book. Her constant support of her father and her sister, Wren, truly touched me and I really loved this part of her personality.
However, beneath the humour and the brilliant fanfiction snippets, Fangirl addressed some really interesting topics – divorce, teen drinking and coming of age. Cath and Wren come from a broken family background, raised by a single father after their mother leaves them all. This familial trauma resonates in Wren’s drinking but also rather subtly in Cath’s inability to write her own characters. Cath struggles to step beyond something that she feels comfortable with – the world of Simon Snow – into a world foreign and unknown – her own fiction. What was truly great about this novel was that it was multi-dimensional, a perfect balance between heart-warming romance, refreshingly awesome pop culture and emotional drama.
But, I would be lying if I didn’t mention that it was also Levi that made this book awesome. I love his endearing struggle with reading, his amazing support and love for Cath and most importantly the fact that Rainbow Rowell has constructed his character in such a human manner. He was an unconventional romantic hero in the sense that he was, without the negative connotations the word brings, ordinary – and that’s why I loved him. He was a relatable character with flaws and imperfections, but he was beyond adorable regardless of these.
So, to wrap up this rather gushing review, I’d like to leave you all with one thing. If you’ve heard bad reviews about this book (god knows from where, however!), please ignore them and experience it for yourself. Pick this book up. Seriously.