Fangirl is the second Young Adult novel by Rainbow Rowell. It is a standalone novel set in Lincoln, Nebraska during the first year of college for Cath and Wren. Last week I read Rowell’s Young Adult debut novel, Eleanor & Park. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite some very harsher, gritty elements that served as post-traumatic stress triggers. Fangirl is a different animal altogether, and I loved it equally.
Cath is a creative writing student. She is obsessed with Simon Snow, a young adult fantasy series by Gemma T. Leslie. Leslie has hordes of fans who devote themselves to writing fan fiction, hoping to stretch out her legacy with their own views of how they want her series to end. With the final book looming Cath is desperate to conclude her own fan fiction, Carry On, Simon; a story that has become the most popular fic on FanFixx.net
During her first semester Cath undergoes a number of new and frightening things that completely upset her world. The first is the withdrawal of her twin sister, Wren, from her everyday life. The two (who have always been devoted to each other) are now barely speaking. The second is a writing teacher who is commercially viable in the publishing market and who knows what it takes to get there. When Cath and her writing instructor clash on a few different writing points it sets Cath back in any progress that she has made in her personal growth.
The third is Levi. Levi is her dorm mate, Reagan’s, boyfriend… or so Cath thinks. Levi is over-friendly and super confident and Cath doesn’t know what to make of him. When she finds herself drawn to him she begins to doubt her own priorities. But what is invention and creativity in comparison to real world experience?
Fangirl is a sweet and endearing story, far more subtle than Eleanor & Park. The romance elements are more muted and take longer to develop. Much of the book is spent in Cath’s room and in the fiction she is writing in an internal secondary story. This fleshed her out more than her own passages – her love for Simon Snow. Ultimately this is her truest characterization in the book, her obsessions with these books. They define her. They shaped her. It’s a characteristic that few appreciate or understand. However, those who are closest to her embrace her devotion and love her for it.
There is also an element of bittersweet to this novel that is a bit unexpected. It comes from Cath and Wren’s father, who is bi-polar and living throughout a massive change; that both of his daughters are gone suddenly. This change upsets his world and he veers into mania very quickly without his daughters in the house to keep an eye on him. There were moments in these parts of the book that really touched me. The closeness between Cath and her father, the willingness to sacrifice… this is another moment where Cath shows her true spirit and defines herself as a true, moral force.
I love this book. It’s really special. And so is Rainbow Rowell.
5 out of 5 stars.
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