Published: 2013 by St. Martin's Griffin
Genres: Fiction (General), Young Adult
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I first heard of Rainbow Rowell back in 2014 at Book Expo. I went to a party at the Housing Works Bookstore, and Rowell was there discussing her latest novel, Landline. Everyone was raving about her work, but since I don’t read much contemporary fiction, I didn’t really give it a deep look. Clearly, that was a mistake, because a friend recently loaned me her copy of Fangirl, and I can’t stop talking about it. It was fantastic!
Fangirl is about a teenager leaving home and going to college. Cath and her twin sister Wren always got through hard times in their lives by writing Simon Snow slash fanfiction together (for those of you not in the know, slash is basically what happens when you write erotic fanfiction where you imagine that Harry has had a thing for Draco Malfoy the whole time). But when they move away to school, Wren pretty much cuts Cath out of her life and turns into a party girl. Cath is upset and lonely, because she’s going through a rough transition and the one person who she thought she could count on isn’t there. She’s trying to make it work but doesn’t really know how, and so she tries to hide from the world in her stories.
Despite her attempts to be antisocial, Cath ends up making a friend. Her roommate Reagan takes her under her wing and tries to bring her out of her shell. Meanwhile, Cath starts to develop feelings for a guy named Nick in her writing class, as well as Reagan’s boyfriend Levi. Much like real life, it’s complicated and a bit messy, but I really like how this love triangle was handled because it wasn’t the usual one-guy-gets-led-on-and-then-shafted kind of triangle. It’s more realistic, and it really does acknowledge the fact that having a crush on someone doesn’t mean you’re going to end up with that person, or that everyone you have a crush on is good for you. And one of the central lessons that Cath learns throughout the course of Fangirl is that you can become good friends with people who don’t share all of the same interests. Friendships and relationships don’t mean finding clones of yourself, so much as people who you get along with and can have experiences with together.
Despite Cath being the star of the show, I found myself drawn to Wren. She reminded me a bit of myself–I partied a lot in college, in part because I made a lot of friends very quickly and didn’t know how to balance having a social life with my more introverted hobbies. I understood why Wren made the choices (and the mistakes) that she did, and even though there were times I wanted to rage at her, she grew a lot as a person by the end of the book. She made an interesting contrast to Cath, because they both had adjustment difficulties, they just dealt with them in completely different ways, and neither extreme was healthy.
I highly recommend Fangirl. I don’t normally read a lot of books set in the modern world (I spend enough time there in real life), but Fangirl is making me rethink that. If you’ve been considering reading it, you definitely should!