Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

9780399546440

“The whole point of fanfiction,” she said, “is that you get to play inside somebody else’s universe. Rewrite the rules. Or bend them…You can stay in this world, this world you love, as long as you want, as long as you keep thinking of new stories.”

To simply say that Cather Avery is a Simon Snow (a Harry Potter-esque book series) fan would be a massive understatement. She has read every book and seen all the movies more times than she can count. The room she shares with Wren, her twin sister, is covered in Simon memorabilia, and the fanfiction she writes based on the books is über famous among online fans. Cath’s obsession doesn’t raise any issues until Wren leaves Simon, and seemingly Cath, behind as they begin freshman year at the University of Nebraska. After eighteen years of living together, Wren feels college is the perfect opportunity for the twins to branch out and meet new people. Cath couldn’t disagree more and feels like a teeny fish in a huge ocean as soon as she arrives on campus. With a moody roommate, said roommate’s lingering yet charming boyfriend, and a mysterious yet attractive Fiction-Writing classmate, can Cath survive college without Wren (and Simon) by her side?

This coming-of-age tale is actually two stories in one as excerpts from Simon Snow novels and Cath’s fanfiction are woven throughout and included at the end of every chapter. Despite the separate plots, both parts of Fangirl are quite predictable. The romantic subplots can be seen from chapters away, and the scenes meant to progress the narrative aren’t exciting or noteworthy. For example, the very first page essentially spoils what is supposed to be the shocking, plot-twisty relationship of the novel. There’s no room for unexpected love when page one drops major, unconvincingly subtle hints.

As a college freshman, I found Cath to be quite immature and could not relate to her at all. She is so painfully shy that she’d rather live off of protein bars and peanut butter than ask someone where the dining hall is, and her pessimistic outlook makes for a frustrating read. In addition to Cath’s extreme (yet purposefully untreated) social anxiety, there are mentions of issues relating to depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol use, broken family life, and possible sexual relations, but none of these are explored or addressed in particularly ground-breaking ways.
Highlights of Fangirl include a smidgen of character development in the supporting characters and the inclusion of authentic adolescent worries such as fitting in, being romantically inexperienced, and feeling overshadowed by a sibling. Readers who might enjoy Fangirl will most likely be a few years younger than Cath (eighth or ninth graders) as she is not relatable for most college freshmen. Fanfiction authors and readers might feel put off by Cath as she is not the most positive representation of fangirls and fanfiction writers. Overall, Fangirl is a story that readers can pass on without losing much besides snippets of a slightly darker (and much cornier) version of Harry Potter.

By: Tess DeMeyer

Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015. Print.

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