Author: Rainbow Rowell
Rating (out of 5): ★★★★★★
There was a boy in her room.
In trying to collect my thoughts about Fangirl, I’ve found it difficult to achieve any sort of literary discussion or even logic. Fangirl struck so truly to my teenage experiences and my teenage heart that it’s now impossible for me to talk about or even think about the book without dragging up all those adolescent touchstones–and nothing is more difficult to describe than one’s illogical, consuming teenage obsessions.
Reading fanfiction. Writing fanfiction. The fanfiction community. Moving from writing fanfiction to original fiction. I joked on Twitter that Fangirl should have been subtitled “Be prepared to read about a slightly fictional version of yourself, Amanda.”
It was not far into Fangirl before our heroine, Cath, was established as someone who would have fit in very easily with my circle of friends. Cath has fond memories of reading and writing fanfiction with her sister growing up–my girlfriends and I built the foundations of our now-fifteen-year-long friendship reading and writing fanfiction alongside each other.
“Think of how many beautiful first times you’ve written for Simon and Baz.”
“That’s totally different,” Cath said dismissively. “They don’t even have the same parts.”
“You’re more comfortable with their parts than–” Wren couldn’t stop giggling. “–your own and… and you’ve never even seen their parts…”
“I try to write around it.” Cath was giggling too.
“I know,” Wren said, “and you do a really good job.”
When I read the author’s notes at the end of the book, I was floored to find out that Rainbow Rowell had researched the fanfic community for just a few years to prepare for Fangirl. Everything regarding fanfic in the book is so very true to my own experiences, both reading and writing. Cath’s fics (slash fics, because Cath and I are cut from the same fangirl cloth) especially the ones from her younger days, all contained tropes of fics that I had read–the one with Simon and Baz on the rooftop and “The First One to Get Eaten” (a Harry Potter Marauder-era fanfic), “Carry on, Simon” and “The Werewolf Who Stole Christmas” (a Remus/Tonks fanfic). Which all serve to also drive home Fangirl‘s in-novel epic magic series equivalency to Harry Potter: Simon Snow. And of course this endeared me to Fangirl even more.
It was a lot of nostalgia to handle in a few hundred pages.
So, with a premise that struck me to the fibre of my being and protagonist who could be my best friend, Fangirl quite had my undivided attention in the few pages it took me to read it.
Cath, so well drawn in her own right without my projecting all over the place, is only the beginning of the cast of wonderful characters who populate Fangirl. There’s Cath’s twin sister, Wren, who is keen to explore new sides of herself now that she’s in college with Cath is desperate to cling to their similarities in the face of so much change; Cath’s roommate, Reagan, a combat-boot-wearing, no-nonsense-taking type who is Cath’s polar opposite and therefore perfect new friend; and sweet, sweet Levi, who is so down-to-earth and also so willing to get carried away in Cath’s fantasy worlds.
Cath lifted her chin up and forced her forehead to relax. “I’m the Cool One,” she told herself. “Somebody give me some tequila because I’ll totally drink it. And there’s no way you’re going to find me later having a panic attack in your parents’ bathroom. Who wants to French kiss?”
I followed Cath around like a silent extra character in every scene, sympathizing with her loneliness, her anxiety, her commitment to writing her fic, and also hoping that she would break out of her shell, try the new thing, kiss the boy–do all the things that I was too afraid to do at that age in those situations. I also got pretty swept away by the amount of reading out loud within the story (particularly in the audiobook version) and the romance of it.
I have no idea what a more “normal” reading experience of Fangirl might be like. The story became so quickly and so inextricably linked with my own life that I couldn’t separate them out even to write this review.
So this is my “dear diary” readux of Fangirl. If you’re anything like me, you’ll love it to bits.