Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Number of Pages: 434
Release Date: September 10, 2013
Synopsis from Goodreads:
From the author the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park
A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.
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 have to admit I was a bit weary of this book. As much as I wanted to enjoy it, I just could not get into Eleanor & Park, a book that every single one of my friends seemed to adore. I was easily pulled into Fangirl, however, and really enjoyed this charming book about this socially-awkward freshman girl who is obsessed with the magical world of a Harry Potter-like character.
While I love reading about this age group--the older teen/new adult, struggling to make it on their own for the first time--and the college setting, I usually shy away from the NA genre. While this book could easily be labeled as NA, it doesn't have that tragic chessiness that infiltrates most NA books (from what I've gathered), nor is it overtly sexual (and it doesn't have a boring kiss-y face cover-yay!). Instead it's an honest look at a girl struggling to find her place in the world. A girl who is forced to make friends on her own for the first time, instead of just being the + 1 of her more outgoing twin sister.
Cath had assumed that she and Wren (her twin) would be roommates when they move from Omaha, Nebraska to Lincoln to go to school. They've been sharing a room their whole lives after all. So she is blindsided when Wren tells her that she wants to room with somebody else instead. Cath gets saddled with the snarky, intimidating Reagan as her roommate. Reagan is an upperclassman who had been hoping for a single room. Reagan was easily one of my favorite characters. She finds Cath exasperating and bewildering, but starts to take her under her wing when it becomes apparent that Cath is too scared to even find the dining hall on her own. Reagan is constantly flanked by Levi, a boy who seems to be her boyfriend even though she is always going out with other guys.
Levi is the best character. Open and friendly, he immediately takes a shine to Cath (who he calls by her real name of Cather). Sweet to everyone he meets, he does the nicest things for Cath, like insisting he walks her home from the library when the dude she is meeting there for her writing class does not.
I enjoyed the emphasis of family in this novel. Both of her parents have made deep impressions on Cath, not necessarily in the best of ways. When Cath and Wren were only 8 years-old, their mother decided that she wasn't living the right life and walked away from her family. Their father, who has done the best he could for his girls, suffers from (I believe) manic depression. While this can help him greatly in the creative aspect of his career as a "Mad Man" (he works in advertising), it does also cause for him to occasionly veer off the road, figuratively. Cath is constantly worried about him now that he is all alone and is incredulous that Wren doesn't seem to feel the same worry that she does.
Speaking of, Wren is obviously the most important person in her life and she feels an emptiness as the two continue to grow further and further apart. Wren is having a "typical" college experience. On her own for the first time, too, she is partying with her roommate every night and distancing herself from the Simon Snow fandom that Cath is still a major part of. She has also started to talk to their mother who is trying to find a way back into the twins' lives. Cath cannot believe that Wren would have anything to do with the woman and this is also causing a major wedge.
The romance that develops in this story was so sweet. I loved seeing Cath come out of her shell with a guy who obviously adored her. I don't want to spoil anything, so I won't say any more.
Finally, I would be remiss not to talk about the fangirling part of Fangirl. Simon Snow, as I've mentioned, is very much a HP-type character. For years Cath (and Wren, though she isn't writing anymore) has been writing a fan-fiction. Her site is extremely popular with hundred of thousands of hits per entry. She feels so much more comfortable in Simon's world than she ever could in her own. In her work Simon and the Draco-like character, Baz, are in love--even though they struggle with their feelings with each other. The book includes several entries of the story which was a great addition to an already fun book. While I neither read nor write fanfiction, the world of fanfic that Rainbow has created for this world seemed very realistic. I think most of us readers/bloggers can understand the desire to disappear into our favorite fictional world and I really enjoyed this aspect of the book.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Fangirl. The novel is realistic and sweet and fun. I loved all of the characters. I loved the fanfic aspect. I will definitely give Rainbow's next book a try and am glad that I didn't let my dislike of E&P keep me from picking this one up.
*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.*