By Rainbow Rowell
I’ve fallen in love with who knows how many books over the years, but I can’t remember the last time I had such a visceral reaction to a book. Fangirl has all the right components for a Young Adult novel. It’s a coming of age story about a wallflower girl trying to adjust to her first year of college and her first real romantic entanglement. But at the same time, it’s just so much more than that because Cath is a fangirl, and extremely so.
Cath is beyond obsessed with Simon Snow, the lead character in a children’s book series that greatly resembles Harry Potter in many ways. For the past two years, she’s been working on Carry On, Simon, her masterpiece work of slash fanfiction that is getting tens of thousands of hits per day. But as Cath continues to pour herself into her fandom experience, her twin sister Wren decides she wants to room with someone new on-campus, putting distance between them for the first time in their lives. They’re still close, but it’s not quite the same anymore. And that’s when the book really starts to open up and swallow you whole.
As much as Cath pretends her world is 100 percent Simon Snow 100 percent of the time, it’s evident from the very first page that she is struggling with a lot of very intense, deeply personal issues. Her twin wants space and their loving and doting dad is too manic about his work to fully take care of himself, so Cath is forced to do it for him. And the mother that abandoned Cath and her sister years ago suddenly calls, wanting to “talk” things through. On top of it all, there’s Levi, her roommate’s best friend. The story quickly falls in to one of the hallmarks of Young Adult literature as Cath and Levi strike up a romantic relationship, but while it may not be the most innovative part of the story, it’s just as engaging as the rest of Cath’s world. Levi provides the nice reprieve from the other issues that clearly drag Cath to the point of exhaustion, mentally and physically. When everything else – including her beloved fanfiction – starts to drag, Levi is there to push her world back up, completely capturing what it means and feels like to be young and in love.
And that’s why I loved this book. I’ve read so many stories of young girls dealing with problems that on the surface are horrifying and in the long run are fleeting. But Cath’s dealing with issues that threaten to tear her very being a part. As a long time Harry Potter fan, I understood exactly what it felt like for Cath to watch something she holds near and dear to her reach an end and to feel like she’s the only one trying to hold on to it while the rest of the world lets go. While I dove further into the Harry Potter books and films to find a home, Cath dove into her writing and proves that nothing is every really over even if you yourself think it is.
Additionally, she’s watching the only people she trusts in her life pull away and fall apart, and after what happened with her mother, she’s scared to death of this progression. Her insecurities are deeply rooted and so challenging for her, she nearly drops out of school after failing her classes, something that I know many people in my own life have faced. That fear and loneliness is more real than anything else in this book. Cath’s world and problems are just so vivid to me that each time she talked about a new aspect of her college life, I was able to insert my own right into the picture. That reality made the book completely genuine.
And of course, there’s Levi, a completely engaging romantic lead who enters the story from the moment you open to the first page and takes over in a hurry. Again, perhaps not the most innovative part of the story, but what Cath’s hesitancy with him does is to show just how deeply affected she is by her relationships, perhaps to an extent she herself was not aware, and that allows her to finally face the issues head on for once. And when she and Levi do finally get together, the tender moments between them are well worth it.
In short, Fangirl is gold in a sea of literature these days. It’s exactly the sort of book that you hope to – pardon the pun – fangirl over when you pick up a Young Adult novel. I can’t tell you the number of times I whooped and cheered, sniffled and laughed, and quite literally bobbed on my bed as I followed Cath’s ups and downs. I wasn’t even sad that the book ended because as Cath learns exquisitely through her fanfiction writing, the last page in a book or on a WordDoc never means the story is really over.
Guest blogger is Sierra Davenport, MuggleNet Social Media