Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publication Date: 10 September 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA (Young Adult)
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 started reading this book several months ago and this morning I finally finished it. There are two main reasons why it took me so long to get through it: the first is that I’ve been distracted by university work and other books that I wanted to read (The Martian, for example), and the other is that for some of the book, I genuinely found it difficult to get through.
For the first half of the book, I felt that the story didn’t have any elements that made it hard to put down, or that made me want to continue reading for hours like other books can. I think this is because the past few books that I have read or started reading (The Martian, Gone Girl) launch straight into an exciting, fast-paced story and Fangirl is different to this. It starts fairly slowly, and personally I feel that the story progresses fairly slowly too. It’s definitely not a book filled with action or fast-paced storylines; rather the focus is on character development, and Cath (the protagonist)’s journey through college while suffering with anxiety.
The second half of the book picked up the pace a little, as Cath is under pressure to write her fan fiction which reaches thousands of readers, and to write a story for her Fiction-Writing class with two weeks until the deadline. Her relationship is also progressing with her new boyfriend as well as with her twin sister, and reading the development of their relationship is interesting. However, I feel that the ending was a bit rushed. After quite a slow plot, the last six or seven chapters were jam-packed with events that I almost had to go back and check I hadn’t missed something!
Overall though, I think I enjoyed it! Some of the themes were very relevant to me: Cath and Wren are twin sisters who are separating to go to university, both having very different university experiences, and this is similar to my situation. Also Cath is obsessed with fan fiction, and the author accurately depicts fan culture which I can very easily relate to. I like the characters and they are described and characterised in a way which is very easy to picture them whilst reading. I really liked Rainbow Rowell’s writing, and it’s likely that I will read her other books too.
The verdict: Although I felt that the plot is a little rushed and I didn’t feel 100% engaged with the story until the second half of the book, the overall narrative and characters are great and the themes made me relate to the story, making it a more enjoyable read.
Next week I’ll be posting something which I’m quite excited to post, and links very well with Fangirl: it’s called ‘What we like about fan fiction’, and I’ve gathered a lot of quotes from real fangirls (and guys) about why they like the world of fan fiction. It’ll be a good post, so look out for it next Thursday if you’re interested!