Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published 2014 by Pan Macmillan, 461 Pages
A light-hearted frollick through the turbulence of teen fangirling.
It’s true, teen fangirling is a big deal. It is a life altering, game changing thing. Falling into a fandom, and becoming part of something amazing, bigger than you, always changing and so, SO inclusive is wonderful. It fills you up and takes you away. It is an escape. You can go anywhere you like, and share experiences with a multitude of different characters, whether they be from your favourite book, TV show, movie or game – there is a fandom for everything and we are not limited to one. Being a geek is the ultimate escape from reality, there is always a side window to sneak out of, a forest to run away to, a community waiting for you online to comfort, console and share in all the wonders that are created by artists all over the world – fiction.
It’s funny, how much I actually related to this book. It’s been a long time since I was at Uni, and it’s so different to American college, but it’s been even longer since I was 18. But I still remember how it felt. The insecurity of it all. I studied English, and creative writing, like our main protagonist, Cath, and I used to write fanfiction too… In fact, I wrote fanfiction about Harry Potter falling in love with Draco Malfoy – much the way Cath write about the fictional world of Simon Snow, and how the protagonist of her fandom is falling for his nemesis. I saw so much of myself in Cath that this book dragged me in head first, very quickly.
I’m not judging my feelings, or my judgment of this book on my own connections to it. Fangirl is incredibly intuitive, it glides through the (short) storyline with ease, and the events draw out the perfect amount of empathy, sympathy and nostalgia. There is nothing obnoxious about this book, it is simple and pleasant and easy t0 read, and has a nice solid flow to it. Nothing really seems out of place and it feels quite natural, the way life generally flows, with ups and downs and busy and quiet. It has plenty to relate to, both for the introverts and extroverts of the world, perfectly represented in the twin protagonists Cath and Wren. The situations that unfold: partying, feeling alone, anxiety, teenage drinking, love, sex – all of these are made relatable through the eyes of the opposing views of the twins, and the other utterly believable characters around them, and that leads me to me next point…
What really makes this book is the characters. This is a bunch of characters a minimum of nine years younger than me, most of them closer to twelve years younger, and yet I can still relate to them all. (Perhaps it’s because I’m still so young at heart!) But there characters are real, and flawed and honest and not, and all of them human. They each make mistakes and sometimes deal with them poorly, they stumble and don’t always have exactly the right thing to say. The book does, indeed, read smoothly, but it has the expected jaggedness of a coming of age story, that stop/start kind of ebb that slowly pushes the protagonists to breaking point, to the point of change, where they learn something and grow up, just a little bit.
At the end of it all, even though it was only a shirt journey with the characters as they transitioned from high school to college, and from freshmen to their second year, this was a delightful romp in a cute little world with some very likeable characters, the nerdy references made it all the more enjoyable for me, all the little in jokes that only a fellow nerd would get. Rainbow Rowell creates magic with the ease that this story, and even the Simon Snow stories within the story, read. I truly enjoyed this book, in fact, I devoured it in a day – and I haven’t done that with a book in a very, very long time.