by Rainbow Rowell
Original Publishing Date: September 10, 2013
Length: 405 pages
Publisher: St Martin’s
Obtained Via: Bought
Format Read In: Ebook
View from the Traffic Light:
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? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
There was a boy in her room.
Do you know those books that are just felt like they were written TO/ABOUT you? You read a summary and wonder if the author has secretly been following you around with a video camera? Well, that’s me with Fangirl. You see, I have a LOT in common with the main character of the book, Cath. To run it down, we both:
- are shy
- Fans of something to the point we write about it
- have one sister(though my sister is not a twin and is much older)
- Were afraid to eat in the college dining halls alone
- Worried about our single-parent dads when we went off to college
How readers will view Fangirl will depend a great deal on Cath. She’s not your typical main character. She’s not friendly or nice. In fact, she’s a bit abrasive at times, mostly without meaning to be so. She’s defensive. She worries a lot, and she doesn’t stand up for herself, but instead just retreats and retreats and flees. And while I will say I am not exactly like Cath–I have a stubborn streak a mile wide and I would have definitely dealt with some of the academic issues differently–she’s a lot more like me than most protagonist I read.
The characters are what make Fangirl. Besides Cath, there’s Reagan, Cath’s roommate, who I absolutely LOVE. Reagan is a bit abrasive and can be rude and snarky, but is also genuinely helpful and guides Cath. Speaking from someone who identifies with Cath a lot, I will say I have Reagans in my life and I’m SO thankful for them. Us Cath-types do very well with well-meaning Reagans. Even Wren, who I really did despise at times, came to grow on me. While Wren treats her sister pretty badly once they start college, one of the most interesting aspects of the book was watching them manage their sister relationships. I also really liked the dynamic between Cath and her father. My dad is NOTHING like Cath’s dad, but I could relate to her worrying about him. When I left for college, it was just me and my dad. I could relate so well to the worry and anxiety Cath felt about that situation.
Then there’s Levi. Levi, much like Cath, is not quite like any other character I’ve encountered. He has this way about him that makes EVERYTHING endearing. Things that would normally make me roll my eyes because they’re so unrealistic seem so NATURAL when Levi does them. He’s foolish sometimes(I mean, he is a college boy), but genuinely seems to care about everyone around him. Charisma is a good word.
There’s a reason I’ve spent so much time going over the characters in Fangirl. Partially because they really are just that awesome, but also because at heart, this is a character-driven novel. While the plot moves forward, it’s secondary to the characters. Everything that happens is because of what the characters do and their choices, rather than things that just happen to the characters. This means that the book deals with a lot of different aspects about college life, which I really appreciated.
I haven’t read many books set in college, but most of the books I have were all fairly predictable. Fangirl has really gotten to the heart of the college experience–at least what my college experience was like– more than any other book I’ve read. Even the things from being afraid to go to the dining halls alone(Yes, I realize how pathetic this is, but it’s true. I didn’t eat only granola bars like Cath, but I did take every meal to go unless I was eating with my roommate. How very Cath of me.), to parties and social life as well as the lack of. Rowell also does a good job of not forgetting the whole, you know, academic side of college.
As someone who used to read and write a lot of fanfiction, I REALLY enjoyed getting to see inside the Simon Snow fandom, but I’ve seen many people who have enjoyed the book without having to care about those aspects. I really loved seeing what the fandom meant to Cath and how it was clear it helped her out of some of her most difficult times. In a way, it reaffirmed all the ways I often love the internet and how easy it can make community. With the rise of the internet and how many YA authors got their start writing and reading fanfiction, it’s a little surprising no one has written a similar story before, but I think Rowell was the perfect writer to do it.
Also, this has no bearing on the quality of the story, but a thousand bonus points for Gilmore Girls reference.
Final Impression: Oh man, so I’m mostly still wondering how Rainbow Rowell managed to get a video camera into my freshman year door room, because Cath & I are SCARILY similar, but I’m also SO glad to have read such a different main character. This book will depend for most readers on how they view Cath and I totally get that, but for me this book was perfect. 5/5 stars.