With Fangirl, her second novel published in 2013, Rainbow Rowell shoved a mirror in front of me with a little smile and a ‘Look, it’s you.’ This book was a life-changer to me, and I’m weighting my words.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase what is discussed. I will receive a small commission from the sale.Fangirl
Written by Rainbow Rowell
Published by Pan Macmillan
Published on January 30th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Buy on Amazon
Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they're off to university and Wren's decided she doesn't want to be one half of a pair any more - she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It's not so easy for Cath. She would rather bury herself in the fanfiction she writes where there's romance far more intense than anything she's experienced in real life.
Now Cath has to decide whether she's ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she's realizing that there's more to learn about love than she ever thought possible ...
A tale of fanfiction, family, and first love
What is Fangirl about?
Fangirl is the story of Cat, eighteen, who just arrived at university and who’s more nervous than an insomniac after downing a bottle of Red Bull and three espressos. Cat is one half of a pair of twins that she shares with Wren; they have absolutely nothing in common. Where Wren sees university as her chance to meet people and party every night, Cat withdraws into herself and never gets out of her room. Wren is an extrovert; Cat is the biggest introvert there is. Wren knows exactly what she wants in life; Cat doubts everything she does, says, thinks. She only has one passion: the Simon Snow books, that she loves more than anything else in the world and for which she write fanfictions, until becoming one of the most popular writers in the fandom.
Everything could be the best in the best of all words for Cat (no) until her roommate, Reagan, and her boyfriend Levi decide to spice things up for Cat.
My review of Fangirl
I don’t think I’m any good at this. Boy–girl. Person–person. I don’t trust anybody. Not anybody. And the more that I care about someone, the more sure I am they’re going to get tired of me and take off.
Where to begin? With Cat’s anxieties, so powerful especially when you’re like me and you have those kind of issues too. Cat’s very dramatical way of seeing life just screams realism to me. I recognised myself in her choices, even (and especially) when they didn’t make any sense and were only there so she could protect herself from the world. Up until the point where she would only eat cereal bars and peanut butter for a whole month instead of going to the cafeteria. Or her need to stay in her room, in the comfort of her bed, with her computer and her fanfictions as her only friends.
Or maybe her dysfunctional family, to the point where you are wondering how it’s still holding up, with a missing mother, a neurotic father and a self-destructive sister. Those relationships are both complex and sincere, going against the idea of the perfect nuclear family you see too often in fiction. The characters knows where to punch where it hurts the most, but also know how to be soft and loving to each other.
Sometimes writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity.
Fanfictions — or rather, the fanfiction, Carry On Simon — are almost a character in themselves in Fangirl. I was a bit wary about that before starting the book, because I know fairly well what kind of reputation fandoms have in the medias. All of them ready to humiliate young girls for their love of fictional characters, to mock their art, to relegate them to a position of ‘not real literature’.
Fangirl has a softer and more understanding approach to the subject. This need to go beyond a story’s limits, to take the characters as your own, to share that love with other fans. Fangirl probably lacks that community aspect of fandoms, since Cat doesn’t have friends only and only discusses her fanfictions with her sister then, later, Levi. But everything else is there: reasons that push us to start writing and stop us from ever giving up. The need of calm and silence to finish a chapter. That feeling of plenitude at the end of a good writing day. Rainbow Rowell knows what she is talking about, and talks about it well; you can feel a real affection for Cat and her passion, one that is only born from experience. ‘One of us,’ I whisper as I turn the pages.
And sometimes you held somebody’s hand just to prove that you were still alive, and that another human being was there to testify to that fact.
And then, there’s Levi. Levi and his smiles, his sarcasm, his flannel shirts. There again, Cat’s reactions are a kick to the guts. The fear of being the butt of the joke, of never being as interesting or as pretty as her sister, that a potential boyfriend will end up running away. Those are legit fears, that we all had one day or another; this fear of never being enough. But then again, Rainbow Rowell knows what she is doing. Levi never tries to change Cat, but accepts and appreciates her for who she is. He never forces her to do what she doesn’t like, follows the rhythm imposed by her anxiety crisis. The perfect love interest, in a way, the one you would like for yourself.
Ultimately, Fangirl is a novel that is both sincere and moving. After turning the last page, it took me about an hour to recover from a bad case of The Feels… and then I grabbed my laptop and I started writing. Like the penny dropped. A book so moving that it gives you the inspiration to write that you had been lacking for months, it’s a book that is more than good according to me.