Release Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre(s): Young Adult Fiction
Now that a new #reblogbookclub title has been announced, it might be time to finally share with you all our thoughts on finishing Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. We blogged about our feelings and thoughts as we read along with everyone else on Tumblr and couldn’t have had more fun doing so!
At twenty three years old, I’m a bit removed from my freshman year of college, but reading about Cath’s experiences brought back the social anxiety, confusion, and newness that I experienced when I first enrolled and left the nest. Cath quickly found herself far outside of her comfort zone in her freshman year – her twin sister opted not to room with her, she couldn’t find the dining hall (and then became too embarrassed to ask), her roommate is intimidating, and her roommate’s boyfriend is too flirty. Despite these challenges, Cath manages to get into an upper-level writing class, makes a friend who she really enjoys writing with, and (sometimes poorly) balances being a “famous” fanfic writer of the fictional Simon Snow series.
She deals with her sister, Wren, being hospitalized due to drinking, her father’s mental illness and the struggles he endures without their constant supervision, her writing buddy using their shared writing for an assignment without giving her any credit, her professor failing her for turning in fanfiction (that she wrote) as an assignment herself, and her mother re-entering her life. She also finds that her roommate, while intimidating, is friendly and awesome to have as support – and her boyfriend is actually her ex-boyfriend (giving Cath the okay to pursue some warm, fuzzy feelings). The widening of her support system was great to watch unfold throughout the book, as was their understanding of her fanfic writing.
Fanfiction is fiction written about a popular television series, movie, book, etc., usually by fans. In Fangirl, Cath and her sister are fans of the fictional Simon Snow series, which is heavily reminiscent of the Harry Potter series, and there are excerpts from their fanfics interspersed throughout the book. I have to give Rainbow Rowell credit, she obviously knows the tropes of fanfics, and the excerpts are just so quintessentially perfect that anyone who has read fanfic for any series will be able to recognize them. It was almost like she wrote two books in one.
It’s a rough adjustment year that we follow Cath through, sometimes frustrating and cringe-worthy, but also so hopeful exciting to experience along with her. There were only a few minor gripes I had with the book. The first one was how I argued on Tumblr against the inclusion of 9/11 being used as the gut punch of the book. I completely understand the rationale, as a young adult book, it is obviously something that resonates deeply with all of us (I can still tell you exactly where I was on 9/11 – sixth grade language arts) and we can empathize with the events of that day. But that day didn’t necessarily need to be the day, any holiday would have worked in the context that 9/11 was used. I didn’t find many people who agreed with me, but that’s still my feelings.
I also thought the book ended abruptly. All of those horrible, terrible, and wonderful things happen to Cath and then… freshman year is over. The end. I suppose that echoes real life though, things end whether you are prepared for them or not – Cath ends her year and her most popular fanfic, “Carry On Simon,” and you can see the measurable change in Cath from beginning to end.
Final Thoughts: When I was finished reading Fangirl, I wanted to hand it out to graduating high school seniors to prepare them for the social anxiety of college – but then again, I’ve always been a very socially anxious person. With no mention or interaction with Cath’s internet friends, I felt like this was the more relatable lesson from the book, but overall it was a quick and enjoyable read that may help to explain to some of the uninitiated what we fangirls and fanboys are all about.