Author: Rainbow Rowell
Release Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
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? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want
to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Fangirl is a humourous, entertaining, emotional, and compelling book. It's all about growing up, moving on, and living your own life instead of someone else's. It's okay to wonder what would happen if you could live inside the world of a book, if you could re-write it, but you can't forget your own life. It's the only one you'll ever get.
Cath is a very curious but very intriguing character. I fell for her awkwardness and her bookishness. This time at college, this time away from her sister and her father, is supposed to be about change. She's (sort of, because she's in a dorm) on her own, living her own life, but is she really? Can she move away from constantly spending time away from her twin and their father? Can she move away from Simon Snow and fanfiction? What intrigued me most about Cath was her staunch unwillingness towards most kinds of change. As the world around her changes, she retreats into herself, finding solace in fanfiction, in a world already created that she can manipulate. It's a coping mechanism, something familiar to turn back to when everything is frightening, when she can't control things. Like her sister. Like her father. Like her strange roommate and her boyfriend.
Fandom, being part of a fandom, is something I know, and so the book felt rather personal. I never lived in a dorm during university, I was never devoted enough to write fanfiction, but I've escaped from reality in order to immerse myself in books about world not my own. There's a certain kind of joy in having so much fun in a world someone else has created and meeting people who feel the same. It lessens the sting of feeling alone. Currently, it feels like fandoms are bigger than what they used to be, that the immediateness of the internet and social media has changed things. That science fiction and fantasy and comic book conventions (San Diego Comic Con, Fan Expo Toronto, WonderCon, LeakyCon, World Fantasy Con, Dragon*Con) are growing at a rapid rate. With this growth and popularity, it's no longer 'nerdy' or 'geeky' to be part of a fandom, no longer just for nerdy guys living in their parents' basements watching reruns of Star Trek over and over.
But being part of a fandom, living vicariously through fanfiction, isn't healthy. As a way to escape, to calm down after a stressful day, as entertainment, as a creative outlet, yes. For Cath and Wren, it became a coping mechanism for them after the abrupt departure of their mother. About a third of the way through the book, one character suggests that if you fall in love with the world you discover in a book, you can just write fanfiction in order to keep on living there. Another character replies, saying they "wouldn't call that living," and they're right. It's not. But sometimes it's hard to draw the line and separate fandom from reality.
When you hit college, when you're living in a dorm away from your parents, when you're suddenly gifted these new freedoms, it can be rather overwhelming. New routines, new people, new ideas, new places. Sometimes, it's new everything. Some can handle the change, some leave, some self-destruct. Everyone's time at college is different, and this is Cath's time.
This book is all about Cath, Cath figuring out the strange new world that is college, Cath figuring out boys and how they work, Cath figuring out that sometimes identical twins aren't that identical, Cath figuring out that change sucks and hurts but it has to happen. It's time to grow up, time to take that next step towards the rest of her life.
(I received an e-galley of this title to review from St. Martin's Press through NetGalley.)