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?
This book is so perfect I cried. Literally. Sob crying. In public. Because it just radiates awesome.
I’ve built my life with books, with words and stories. I’m built of fabulous books that I’ll never remember, there are bad ones I can’t forget, there are books that were so mundane I hardly know if I read them or not. But there are some books, like Fangirl, that just remind me why I’ve chosen to sculpt my identity through the stories of others. Cath is a character I want to fold into myself, along with the handful of characters in my reading history that I’ll forever carry with me. Fangirl almost acts as a best friend I didn’t know I couldn’t live without until she came along.
In Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell played on the nostalgia of first love and life with cassette tapes. In Fangirl, I was nostalgic for entirely different reasons. The way I read Fangirl reminded me of the way I read first book I can remember loving. I got a copy and immediately avoided as much social interaction as much as possible, took a longer lunch, hoped for longer commute time, begged exhaustion to go home, then stayed up way too late all to keep reading this book. And of course it played on my own fangirl nostalgia. When my mom came home with a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone because she heard it was big in England and she read a chapter out loud to my brother and I, my whole life changed. I’d be a totally different person now if I hadn’t grown up with Harry. So while I’ve never written or really read much fan fiction, I completely know what it’s like to be so entwined with a fantasy world it because easier to live there than face the real world.
Cath is a perfectly and beautifully crafted character. Her quirks made her vibrant and her awkwardness was completely endearing. Nothing about her felt forced or made up. She’s so real, she could have been me. Cath has some issues with trying new things and I totally relate to the anxiety of being the only one who doesn’t really know what’s going on. I get what it’s like to prefer staying in and writing (or reading) over venturing out and meeting people. But Cath grows so much and overcomes the things that hold her back. She still manages to be herself – she just becomes a more awesome version of herself.
Since Cath doesn’t venture out often, the people in her life are the ones she happens to be thrown with – her twin sister (who has some issues of her own), her dad (who seems to spend a lot of time off his rocker), her roommate (a great girl with a sharp edge), her writing teacher (sigh, wish my writing teachers had been so understanding about deadlines), and Nick (ok, how awesome does it sound to have a hot dude who wants to write stories with you??). Then there’s Levi, her roommate’s high school boyfriend. The way he and Cath fall for each other is just so slow and sweet and beautiful. They’re awkward and endearing and, can I use the word perfect again? They’re perfect. He shows up even when he doesn’t have to and he lets Cath be who she is – he comes into her world and she lets him.
Which brings me to my crying episode. There is nothing sad in this book – at least not enough to actually warrant tears. But somehow this book got me anyway. I was reading on the train and I was reading the most perfect scene (if you really want to know which one it is, I’ll tell you, but I’m not going to spoil things here) and the whole book just seemed to build to this moment and I started sobbing. With actual chest heaving and fat tears on a relatively crowded subway car. And I didn’t even care. This book deserves my tears, my heart, and anything else I can possibly give back to it.
This book is a tribute to anyone who’s ever loved something, really. We all know what it’s like to throw your life into something and I think the wonderful thing that comes from Cath is the empowerment to own that and to not let anyone ever, ever make you feel like it doesn’t matter. If you stay true to what you love, the right people will still be there for you and your life is going to work out the way it’s supposed to – the way that makes you happy. That’s not to say you don’t have to grow and you can just stay in your room all the time – you should definitely go outside your comfort zone and experience new things – but, it’s okay to own who you are.
Fangirl is an instant all-time favorite for me. I know I’ll be reading this book again and will cherish it for years to come. Well done, Rainbow. If a book can be perfect, it’s this one.