“Sometimes writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity. ” -Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl
It was a tough sell – wanting to read a book about a college freshman girl who writes fan-fiction about a made up fantasy book series? But I knew there was no way Rainbow Rowell would let me down. Eleanor & Park was not a fluke, it was genius. The [school] night I stayed up until 2 a.m. finishing Eleanor & Park convinced me that Rowell had figured it out. Man, she knows how to write a character. Even more importantly, she knows how to write a realistic character that a person can actually imagine knowing in real life. Not a character that makes you go, “Biiiiggg faker.”
So really, I had to give Fangirl a chance. Let’s just say if we hadn’t had a snow day on Tuesday, I would have come to school with some severe sleep deprivation issues. A rabid need for coffee, instructing Mr. Gette to yell random words at me so I don’t nod off, the whole nine yards.
Set in Rowell’s native Nebraska, Fangirl is about Cather (or Cath) – a twin, a college freshman, and a massively successful fan fiction writer. Ever heard of Simon Snow? Of course you haven’t. But if you lived in Rowell’s world, he would be synonymous with Harry Potter. Everyone has read the Simon Snow books, and anyone who is a real fan (at least by Cath’s standards) writes Simon Snow fan fiction. Simon Snow was Cath’s childhood – it’s what she shared with her twin Wren after their mom peaced out without even a backward glance. It’s what got them through the roughest of their manic father’s rough days. They built a fan fiction empire, together. And even when Wren’s writing slowed and eventually stopped altogether (being replaced, naturally, by boys and parties), she was still sneaking into Cath’s bed at 2 a.m to read and edit the latest installments.
Enter college. Enter the, “I picked the same college as my more popular, social twin who won’t even room with me” year.
What’s a Cath to do? She lives with Reagan, an older, terrifyingly cool girl who is constantly smoking, working, and being generally disruptive with her boy-friend(?) Levi. Cath’s ideal Friday night is being left alone in her room, whiling away the hours working on her fan fiction masterpiece Carry On. Not exactly a social butterfly, if you catch my drift. More of the, “Let’s escape the harsh unpredictability of reality for the comforts of a wondrous, fantastical world”-fly. Anyone who was ever a Harry Potter/Star Wars/Star Trek/LOTR/Hunger Games/D&D/Comic Book/Graphic Novel/Etc. fanatic can relate.
Trying to survive on protein bars and peanut butter, because finding a dining hall is definitely not worth the overwhelming social anxiety that is sure to come, Cath is lost. Literally and figuratively. There’s one pocket of comfort – Advanced Fiction Writing class. But the class comes attached to a professor who despises fan fiction and a writing partner (Nick) who wants to spend hours collaborating with Cath, but can’t bother to walk her home.
Wren has moved on – at a blistering pace – from Simon Snow. From Cath. Can Cath – should Cath – catch up?
Reasons why you will love Fangirl:
- Cath. Levi. Reagan. All the characters!And their dialogue, external and internal. But especially Cath.
- The 100% realistic portrayal of college dorms. Dorms are small, physically uncomfortable, socially awkward, and can hardly contain 2 weeks worth of clothes. Thank you, Rainbow Rowell, for not romanticizing dorm rooms AND using their awkwardness as method to enhance plot development.
- Any struggling writer (which is every writer) will love reading about how Cath deals with writer’s block, demanding fans, conflicting expectations, and no-good fake friends who rip off your work
- Rowell’s depiction of a fandom. Although Simon Snow is a made-up fandom, you forget that detail the more you read. Turns out fandom is fandom, paint it any color you like, any nerd will recognize its true form.
- A cameo made by The Outsiders – introductory and concluding lines included!
- Most importantly – the love story. There is a love story. Fangirl is a love story. I won’t tell you a single detail about it – trust me, you want to find out for yourself. She did this with Eleanor & Park and she did it again with Fangirl. Rowell makes readers realize that the most normal, realistic, and familiar love stories are the most unique and the most special. The grand, dramatic romances of Hunger Games or Twilight are that much less special in light of a story that manages to make the smallest gestures the most special.
In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t Google.) -Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl
-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who will always think it’s worth staying up into the wee hours of the morning to read a fantastic book)