Author: Rainbow Rowell
Synopsis: 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?
River and I received our review copies via St. Martin’s Press and Edelweiss/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This is my 3rd favorite book of 2013. I received a copy thanks to my lovely friend Melissa, who hooked me up with some BEA goodies (she went, I’m kinda stuck on the other side of the world).
I want to dedicate this review to my sister. She’s going to get a copy of this for Christmas (hey sis!) and then we are going to read it together and probably laugh and cry. See, fandom, and fangirling, is something that I am very familiar with. I went through many different fandoms, but one of the biggest, and most meaningful ones was Harry Potter. If you’re in your mid-to-late 20s (like my sister and I) then you grew up with Harry Potter. You waited for the books to come out, went to midnight book releases (or worked them! Dressed as a wizard and Professor Umbridge… eheheheh) and movie premiers. My sister actually wished people a ‘Happy Harry Potter day’ when the 6th book came out (and we went to the mall, bought tee-shirts and books and then stayed up forever reading them). I still remember when we were reading the last book and she called me into her room and was sobbing over someone’s death (oh now I feel like crying…)
So this book touched me in SO many ways. Before Harry Potter my sister and I HATED each other. Like, threw harmful objects at each other, locked each other out of the house, never said a nice word to each other HATED. We had nothing in common, and just… despised the existence of one another. Then I accidentally watched the first Harry Potter movie while I was baby sitting and while I was re-watching it at home (where NOBODY would catch me) my sister secretly watched it from the other room and… things changed.
The relationship between Cath and Wren is a bit opposite of mine and my sisters, and at the same time, it’s very similar, just a little backwards. I feel that my sister is a lot like Wren (the wild child) and I’m more like Cath… but when I went to University I was a mix of the two sisters. I had my fandoms (anime and Johnny’s Entertainment), but I also wanted to go out and drink and have the ‘college experience’. I even had a similar roommate situation to Wren’s.
I also went to college for creative writing and could TOTALLY relate to everything about Cath’s writing classes. I was writing partners with the in-before-hipsters-were-cool hipster and we wrote the most flamboyantly pretentious stuff in the world that nobody could understand because they didn’t ‘get us’. I also wrote fan fiction in high school (okay, not quite the same but whatever) and got major flack for it (so I didn’t do it again in college).
While Cath wore her nerd on her sleeve I was more shy about it. I was terrified all through high school about people finding out that I liked Star Wars (until it became cool, and then I was all about letting EVERYONE know that I liked it before it was cool, like ya do) and it wasn’t until a bit later in college that I felt okay letting people know about my weird obsessions. Now I’m just like HEY GUYS I’M A HUGE DORK AND I DON’T CARE. So I felt more like Wren in that aspect, and I really admired Cath’s attitude, or obliviousness, about her own nerd hanging out.
This book was so funny too. EMERGENCY KANYE DANCE PARTY. I need this in my life. And Levi was the sweetest guy and the house he lived in reminded me SO MUCH of the party house that my guy friends lived in in college. And Levi = my sister’s husband. Down to the truck.
Fangirl is a book about growing up, but never entirely growing old of the things you love. A lot of what this novel speaks of in terms of fanfiction, slash, fandom, are all something that growing up geek, you learn to participate and deal with. Cath’s a Simon Snow fangirl, a pseudo-Harry Potter knock off wherein she devotes much of her free time to writing Simon Snow fanfic and being popular in the interwebz. Despite her internet fame, Cath proves her introverted ways when she goes off to college, and her and her twin sister, Wren, are not even going to be roommates.
This is a novel that moves in a circle: you are told from the beginning that Wren is the mature one of the two, and Cath is the awkward introvert who only has confidence in her fictional life. As the novel progresses, we see the roles switch and transform in such a way that is subtle, yet beautifully done. Regardless of their newfound independence at college, both girls attempt to learn what it’s like being without their other half. When you have twins as the lead characters, you always risk the fact that they don’t feel distinctive from one another, but in this novel the distinction is crystal clear. They have to learn to deal with their dysfunctional family and what being a new adult is truly like. Rowell does such a touching job with this that I found myself nodding along with Cath’s convictions, but also having tons of sympathy for her situation. I also genuinely laughed a few times, because I think Rowell gets the notions of fandom so spot on in this story. Especially what it means to be an insane fangirl about “x fandom”.
I adored Cath’s voice throughout the text. She has so much confidence in her writing, but you can tell she isn’t entirely comfortable with parts of herself. However, her growth is such a pleasure to watch throughout the story because we see her come out of her shell, open up about her love of fandom, and of course gets a cute, equally awkward boy to notice her. Levi was such a treat in the novel because he wasn’t not perfect, but he wanted to know so much about Cath’s secret life as a fanfic writer. He doesn’t understand it right away, but he becomes so enamored by it, that it makes it tricky to avoid her. He’s adorkable and in a way, reminds me of what it was like to meet my own spouse.
This novel was a huge flashback of my final years of high school, beginning of university. Cath’s behaviour, mannerisms and even just what she is doing through most of the text reflects how I was (and still am to an extent) about the things I love in my life. I may not be as involved in fandoms as I once was, but I found myself reflecting upon those days with a lot of fondness while reading this novel. I also adored the insertions of Cath’s fanfics, as well as the actual Simon Snow novels. When those appeared you could see it mirroring what was happening with Cath’s story, and t was just well inserted.
Once again, Rainbow Rowell has written a novel so genuine, so kind, with wonderfully flawed people who are simply easy to relate to. I found myself remembering the days of online chats, RPing, and I can admit to doing it all. I still have many friends even to this day who I wouldn’t have had if it were not for fandom. Fangirl is a must read for those who don’t mind dipping back into their fandom pasts, but also love a story about what it means to grow up and grow into who you wish to truly become.