Author: Rainbow Rowell
Cather (Cath) and Wren are identical twins whose mother left them when they were eight. Their father is an unstable genius leaving the girls are pretty much on their own.
While Wren is outgoing, Cath is the shy silent one, content to remain in the shadows. The two, however, have a common love — Simon Snow — a fictional character they both are obsessed with. Not only do they have posters and figures of Simon all over their room, they also write Simon Snow fan-fiction. Their retellings are immensely popular, with readership running into thousands.
As they step into college Cath is counting on Wren to keep being her roommate. Wren, on the other hand, decides they need to let go of each other, to explore and experience this new life on their own. She does just that, going to parties, frequenting pubs, drinking and dancing the night away with her new room-mate.
Cath meanwhile shies away from making friends. She remains in the imaginary world of Simon writing away furiously. She finds herself incapable of writing anything else, even delaying her submission for her fiction class. But friendship and love have a way of finding even those who aren’t looking for them.
Fangirl is a delightful coming-of-age novel
Told from Cath’s point of view it’s an endearing account of how an (almost) antisocial youngster navigates college life.
The biggest strength of the book is its characters. Rowell has a way with them. I loved Cath. Awkward, shy yet a tad defiant. I loved her. There was a part when she decides to live on protein bars rather than go looking for the dining hall — that was immensely identifiable. That dread of meeting a crowd of unknown people ALONE. Oh I so got her!
There was their father – a little mad, emotionally unstable, sweet and kind and brilliant at his work as an advertising man.
Wren was good too, but only as a foil for Cath’s shyness. Her journey away from Cath and then back, was typical of a college freshman, somewhat stereotypical.
Also there were Cath’s roommate Reagan and her ‘boyfriend’ Levi (you’ll know why I put that in quotes when you read the book), utterly loveable in their own odd ways.
Another plus for me was Snow’s Harry Potterish story, the book on which Cather’s fan fiction is based. I got pretty invested in Snow and Baz as did a lot of others it would seem. That’s probably why Rowell has come with Carry On – a spinoff of Fangirl – that tells the story of Simon.
What didn’t work for me
To begin with there wasn’t much of a narrative. Consequently, the book lagged in bits. It got repetitive with Cath sitting in her room writing fan fiction. However, that wasn’t a major grief.
The biggest problem was perhaps my own perception. The title led me to assume the book was focussed on Fandom. That really wasn’t the case. Fandom isn’t only about writing fan-fiction — it’s about the discussions – heated ones – and interactions, putting forth of theories and having them refuted or validated. Perhaps, even a run-in with the author. All of that was missing. Cath went nowhere with the fandom, she just ‘was’. And, as it turned out, the book was about stepping out of fandom.
Also, the end was rather abrupt. We don’t get to see how or what makes Cath step out of writing fan-fiction and into her fiction class project. One moment we find her unable to write with the deadline looming and in the next instant she’s done. I felt cheated of a proper climax.
Essentially, this is a coming-of-age story, and to that extent it delivers wonderfully.
Last thought: Not much ‘Fangirling’ here but as a coming-of-age novel you’ll love it.