Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell so perfectly captures the fandom experience I want fan fiction about this book! I think that speaks to how well the book captures the essence of fandom — especially considering the novel is about a girl who writes fan fiction.

fangirlCath 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?

Though Fangirl will especially resonate with readers who latched onto the Harry Potter and similar fandoms, anyone who has experienced the freshman year college jitters will relate to Cath’s story. Rowell so perfectly captures every nuance of that first year away from home; that first taste of adulthood and independence. It’s exciting and thrilling and terrifying all at the same time. Cath’s anxieties are the anxieties of every college freshman.

But Rowell goes beyond just the college experience and really hones in on the personalities and quirks of hardcore fans. Not just passive viewers or readers, but those who become part of a fandom … who actively participate in the experience of their passion. The ones who attend midnight screenings, proudly wear logo’d apparel, collect posters and paraphernalia, write and/or read fan fiction, and embrace all that the book or whatever it is they love represents.

There were certainly plenty of times reading Fangirl that I wondered if Rowell was secretly writing about my life; other times I cringed through Cath’s experiences. And yet even more often I cheered her on as she took yet another step forward towards adulthood. And by adulthood, I don’t mean abandoning the fandom she loves. I mean striking the perfect balance between school, life, love, and – YES – fandom.

Fangirl is in stores on September 10th.

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