Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publish date: September 10th 2013 by St. Martin’s Press
Source: ARC from BEA
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
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?
I didn’t love Fangirl like I expected to.
My expectations are somewhat obvious. I identify with the title. I frequently call myself a fangirl. And a main character who writes fanfiction? Having spent the ages of 13-19 immersed in fanfiction, and still dabbling in it to this day, I anticipated an easy connection with Cath.
And Cath and I had a lot of things in common! Besides the fanfiction angle, we both majored in Creative Writing, are somewhat bad about dealing with strangers (particularly of the male variety), and went to college knowing about one other person. For Cath, it’s her twin sister, and for me it was my best friend, whom I’ve known since the age of 11.
Maybe the fact that Cath and I had so much in common is why I couldn’t connect with her. Was I maybe trying too much to have a character make the decisions I would make?
I do think that’s part of it, particularly as it pertained to her schoolwork. I found myself wanting to scream at her over and over again. And it made me angry how, although she professes an degree of insecurity, it often felt to me like she shamed those who wanted to have the typical college experience or dealt with things in ways different from her.
And the fandom aspect didn’t come through for me. I understood that Cath spent a lot of time and effort on her Simon Snow work, but where was the joy in it? It’s so wrapped up in her identity, but FEELINGS have always been what’s driven me to participate in fandom and I didn’t feel Cath’s feels for Simon Snow but one or two times. I also found the long excerpts of her ‘fics and the Simon Snow novels distracting from Cath’s personal journey. Not to mention that I was distracted trying to draw the obvious parallels between Simon Snow and Harry Potter.
Rainbow Rowell does, however capture those feelings of social ineptitude while trying to navigate life on your own very well. I was drawn easily back to my freshman year, remembering how I felt like clutching my textbooks to my chest constantly, as though they could protect me from my teacher’s judgements or my own missteps.
Cath’s changing relationship with her twin sister was also fascinating– like a rubber band, they stretched apart, but sprang back together. I also enjoyed Levi, but sort of “sided” with him during a conflict between him and Cath.
The brightest of bright spots in Fangirl was, for me, Cath’s prickly roommate Reagan. I adored Reagan, with her badassery and firm self-identity. I loved how she forcibly pulled Cath from her shell in her own dry way, snarky and wonderful.
Despite my many issues with it, I did really enjoy Fangirl, and rated it 4 stars. I think for people curious about fandom, it might be a good introduction to the culture, and it was nice to enjoy a college setting for a change.
Need a second opinion?
“Even now that I’m finished with college, I know that this is a book I’m going to keep coming back to.” -Queen Ella Bee Reads
“We see the fiction. We don’t see the heart.” -Stacked
“It was such a complete package for me.” -The Perpetual Page Turner
“I had some trouble at times, specifically connecting with Cath.” -The Book Addict’s Guide