Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

FANGIRL_CoverDec2012

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 fanfiction, 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 fanfiction 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 really loved this book. A novel about a Harry Potter-esque fangirl? A "new adult" novel set in college with none of the problematic tropes? Heartbreaking cuteness from the author of Eleanor & Park? How could it be anything but fabulous?

After the increase in accusations of "fake geek girls" and years of The Big Bang Theory telling us all that only guys like nerdy things, it's awesome to read a book about female fans and fan culture. Cath has 100% unapologetic love for Simon Snow, a Harry Potter stand in that will be coming to a close with the release of the eighth and final book at the end of Cath's first year in college. She lives in a world of fanfic and fanart, of quote tshirts and costumes and counting down to release days. In fact, Cath is kind of a BNF, writing an incredibly popular fanfic about Simon and his nemesis-slash-unspoken-love, Baz. It's basically The Draco Trilogy, without the drama attached.

Of course, the book isn't just about fandom. It's about a girl starting college and struggling with who she is and where she wants her life to go. She struggles with schoolwork, with her changing relationships with her sister and her father, with guys who turn out to be unworthy of her affection and guys she never thought she would like, with questions about her worth and ability as a person... and with the fear that everything she has known will end with the release of the final Simon Snow book, leaving her unsure about the future. It's a mixture of excitement and sadness that I think anyone who grew up in the Harry Potter generation can empathise with, combined with the excitement and terror (and mostly terror) that I think anyone who's ever left her teenage years behind can empathise with.

And the characters are all wonderfully flawed. Cath's twin sister Wren is determined to use college as a time to distance herself from her sister and their shared life before, and she doesn't always handle it in the best way. Cath's roommate is somewhat mean and rough edges, at least until we get to know her, and Cath herself has social anxiety to the point of avoiding going into the dining hall and can say and do some pretty selfish stuff. Her attempt to submit fanfiction to a higher level college creative writing course seems a bit of a dumbass moment, but her resulting struggle with her own writing and her fear/certainty that she doesn't have anything original within her, that she's only built to tell stories in other people's worlds, is perhaps familiar to anyone who's written fanfiction, and to anyone who's ever doubted their own abilities in general.

All in all, Fangirl is a really fun read, and a desperately needed breath of fresh air in both the new "new adult" genre and stories about geek culture in general.