‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell is a coming of age story of Cath, just when she moves to college. This means leaving home, leaving her father behind, and being dropped completely out of her comfort zone. Although she has a twin sister, Wren, there with her, Wren is trying to move on from their ‘childish’ teenage years of fanfiction and fandom – something Cath is unable to leave behind. Wren even refuses to be roommates, so instead Cath has to bunk with the slightly spiky and snarly Reagan who always has a guy called Levi around.
Battling school work and anxieties of being in a new place, too nervous to figure out the dining hall and it’s unexplained ways of how everything works, Cath keeps mostly to the safety of her room and beloved fandom – Simon Snow, the novel’s version of the Harry Potter fandom. Real life keeps interrupting, though. She never expected the confident Reagan to take interest in her, nor Levi to pay her any attention in the slightest. Yet they do. Slowly, Cath takes step after step in expanding her comfort zone, even though it may mean leaving Simon Snow behind.
This novel is written for fans everywhere. Never have I found a novel before that so perfectly captures the intricacies of fandom, showing both the good and the bad, the how certain things in fandom can be so important, yet seem otherwise insignificant to those on the outside.
This is also a novel for those who feel most comfortable online, and struggle with social experiences. Capturing how even going to the food hall can seem like just too much stress to deal with is perfectly handled and realised, and at no stage is Cath shown to be anything other than a shy, anxious girl in a positive light. It’s hard to capture these characters, often dipping into the realm of the author poking fun at them to show just how ‘hopeless’ they are, rather than showing a simply realistic three-dimensional character.
Rowell’s writing is accomplished, bringing an easy read to having such depth of thought and description that doesn’t overpower, capturing a range of emotions and depth in light sentences. Each chapter begins with a section of the ‘Simon Snow’ fanfiction, which only brings you into the idea of the fandom even more. Rowell is just so spot-on throughout the entirety of the novel that it’s impossible not to smile and want to share snippets with friends.
Overall the plot is realistic, revolving around Cath and those she comes into contact with. There isn’t any action or melodrama, leaving a novel about relationships and coping with life in general. Cath is a wonderful character, being both confident in her writing and online presence, yet shy in ‘real life’. This is such a genuine novel that has the utmost respect for a usually ridiculed topic, providing a relatable novel for those involved in such things.
If only there was going to be another!