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?"
My Review: I admit it: Fangirl belongs to the type of genre I dislike immensely. I've never been sure what to call it---indie-lit? Contemporary-lit? You know, those books that are basically coming-of-age stories about regular, every day teenagers; that don't have any larger plot except for feelings. The type of books that John Green and Sarah Dessen usually write. I've enjoyed a few books from this type of genre...but not many. I tend to avoid them. And I admit it: the only reason I even picked up this book was the title. Fangirl. "Fangirl" is pretty much a word that can be used to describe like 99% of my life, since fandoms---of books, video games, TV shows, movies, celebrities, even fashion---is basically what my life revolves around. I am a fangirl. It's what I am. And the word "fangirl" is a pretty recent term, actually, that hasn't been around for ages, so when I saw this book, I was immediately intrigued.
And I loved it. I think what set Fangirl apart, for me, from other books in this genre that I usually so intensely loathe was it's simplicity. Fangirl didn't pretend to be something it's not. It wasn't pretentious and filled with profound realizations of life and grand philosophical discussions and revelations. The beauty lay in the simplicity. There was no overt drama and no flashy displays of "HERE, feel some emotion now!" moments by the author. The emotion crept up on you in little bits and pieces and that's the best kind of emotion, honestly. The kind you don't expect, the kind that sort of just...infiltrates your heart. Fangirl was beautiful because it was so simple in its reality. The characters didn't walk around dramatically quoting pretentious quotes or smoking cigarettes while laying under the stars or all the things that teenagers usually DON'T do in real life. The people in this book did things that, while quirky, were still real and normal enough for me to be able to digest.
And the characters---and their issues---were winning, again, because of their simplicity. Reagan was snarky but not overly so to the point where you wanted to kill her. Levi was sweet but just when he started to seem a little too friendly and overly-sweet, you suddenly realized that he had his own small struggles as well...but most people didn't see them because he was just a Friendly Guy. Let me tell you, it was SO refreshing to read about a guy who wasn't dark, brooding, cocky, arrogant, tortured... Those can all be fun in their own ways. But they've been done to death. Levi was a breath of fresh air and made you think, "Where's MY Levi?"
And Cath! Oh, Cath. Rarely have I ever found someone so relatable. I admit, I'm not 100% like Cath. Though I suffer from anxiety as well, I'm more outgoing and able to handle new situations. But I could relate 100% to her reluctance and fear of change and her internal panic to new situations and her world changing. I'm not a famous fan-fiction writer nor am I heavily invested in one slash ship as Cath was, but I am heavily invested in several fandoms and several ships/OTP's and I could 100%---nay, 200%---relate to Cath's desire to withdraw from normal life into her fandoms. Sometimes it's easier to worry about your favorite character's problems than your own problems. To focus on analyzing your favorite characters' lives than to analyze your own life. So I admit, at times, I had to pause because I was so impressed with how well Rainbow Rowell got into the head of a fangirl. I admit, I don't think I take any of my ships AS seriously as Cath does...but then again, Cath has way more social anxiety, so I can understand. Her relationships with her father were touching and yet sad and really did send some important messages about the complexity of mental illnesses. And I loved her relationship with Wren. I liked how Rowell didn't just make Wren this one dimensional "bitch" who abandons her sister---she showed Wren's struggle to stay connected to this person she used to be, the person Cath loves, and to also become a slightly new person.
And what really took this book to the next level? The writing. It was simple, elegant at times, but also appropriately choppy and ragged to show that level of teenager emotion and modern-day fast-paced thinking. We live in a fast world with instant gratification and our thoughts and internal narratives reflect it. The dialogue was fun, flawed, realistic, and I loved it. It felt like real things real people would say. And I really enjoyed how the ending wasn't super-perfect and fairy tale-ish but it was still uplifting and light. You will feel sad at parts of this book but you won't finish it feeling depressed.
All in all, this is one of those realistic coming-of-age type of books that I really did enjoy...simply because it delivered on its promise and gave me some entertaining-yet-touching REALITY, not a heavy dose of forced emotions and pretentiousness like other books in this genre tend to do.
Cover: I like it! The fact that it's hand-drawn seems to kind of pay homage to the fact that fan art is a HUGE part of fandoms (and this is something I do do!) and the colors are bright and cheery.
Overall Grade: A+