Reading a YA novel as a 22-year-old is slightly uncharacteristic. Especially if the experiences, events and mindset of the protagonist is one that you have surpassed many years ago. Nevertheless, I absolutely loved this book!
Fangirl – written by Rainbow Rowell – features all of the fears and anxieties that a first-year university student experiences. Except it tells it from the perspective of a covert and socially awkward, fan-fiction-writing, fantasy-novel-loving 18-year-old called Cath.
Cath, one half of a pair, is far from excited about starting first semester at a new college. Especially since her twin sister Wren suggests that they share rooms with different people and explore university life separately. Such a possibility is horrifying for Cath, who has never thought of herself as being a different person from Wren.
The idea of going to a college away from her home is already anxiety-inducing. Experiencing this without her twin is even worse.
Having been left deserted with their father at the age of 8, Cath and Wren have always done everything together; from shopping, to parties, to co-writing fan-fiction for their favourite Simon Snow series. Wren is extremely boisterous, vibrant and outspoken. She loves attending parties and meeting new people but Cath prefers staying indoors and writing fan-fiction.
Throughout the book we don’t see as much of Wren as we’d perhaps like to, as Rowell covers Cath’s experiences in the first year of university. However, a novel told about even one half of this pair is a novel that is beautifully conceptualised and very well-written.
Cath has always existed successfully in the realm of the internet, amongst lovers of fan-fiction who ardently follow and support her work Carry On, Simon. However, she now needs to learn how to exist in the real realm. In the real realm Cath’s sister Wren is distancing from her, she has an aggressive roommate who doesn’t understand fan-fiction, a cute (in a 1950’s kind of way) boy in her advanced fiction writing class who doesn’t seem to be what a is, a looming deadline that she keeps avoiding for that same class, the super-smiley and not-so-good-looking-but-cute-in-a-tall-way ‘boyfriend’ of her resentful roommate and, finally, family problems to add to the load.
The first year of University really does take its toll on Cath. But does she manage to pull through by remaining true to herself? Or does she give up and go back to the comfortable cover of her simon-snow-themed bedroom back home where she can write fan-fiction and ignore everything else?
Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out!
Fangirl was such a pleasure to read and even though I was too old (and too much of a social worm like Wren) to empathise with Cath’s plight, I do know what it’s like to escape from everything worldly and just sit down to write what I want to write, not what the world wants me to. Before reading Fangirl I didn’t really know that there exists a whole community of fan-fiction. My ignorance was a result of me reading only romance novels and literary fiction and I’m not too sure that fan-fiction communities exist for these genres.
Anyway, Rowell does an excellent job of highlighting the importance of writing fan-fiction for these readers. She portrays these writers with dignity and shows empathy towards their attachment to writing pieces that will never get any monetary reward but are still rewarding for those who write them and those who read them.
I absolutely loved this book and everything about it; the characters, plot, theme and the emphasis on the importance of writing. As a writer who constantly struggles to get even a few paragraphs written down at a time, seeing Cath’s diligence and motivation towards her fan-fiction gave me a new spark. I know that she’s a fictional character but that’s the beauty of it – a novel is most successful when readers find inspiration from fictitious characters. And I did. From Cath.
For this book I also want to include a few passages that I felt resonated with how I feel about writing so well:
“But there is nothing more profound than creating something out of nothing… That’s what makes god – or a mother. There’s nothing more intoxicating than creating something from nothing. Create something from yourself.” P.275
“We write about the worlds we already know. I’ve written four books, and they all take place within a hundred and twenty miles of my hometown. Most of them are about things that happened in my real life.” p. 325
Sometimes writing is like running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity. P.452
I would give this book 4.5/5 and I recommend this book to anyone who is starting a new chapter in their life and is fearful, or anyone who is, is going to, or has gone to university and wants to relive a few of the fears, emotions and anxieties that they had in their first year.
This really was a fantastic book and I can’t wait to read more by Rainbow Rowell.
Until next week my loves,