- Release Date: September 10th, 2013
- Pages: 445
- Genre: Contemporary
- Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (MacMillan)
I can’t believe how long it took me to get to this book. Last Fall Fangirl seemed to be the buzz of the bookternet. Ever since I stumbled onto LiveJournal 8 years ago, I’ve been just fascinated by fanfiction and fandom culture. I’ve observed my fair share of fanaticism and I couldn’t wait to see how Rowell tackled it.
Fangirl tells the story of Cath, the titular unapologetic fangirl of the Simon Snow books, a pretty clearly Harry Potter Expy. Cath, or rather her username, Magicath is a BNF (big name fan) because her Simon Snow fanfiction, Carry On,Simon gets 20,000 views a day. The novel follows Cath through her freshman year of college as she struggles through family issues, school problems and severe social anxiety. Along for the ride is Cath’s belligerent roommate Reagan and Reagan’s friend Levi to help her navigate the journey.
I really enjoyed this book, it took me a week to knock it out which is a record for me for a book this length. One of the things I like about Rowell is her writing style, she writes in a close third person that reads like a first person because we see everything from Cath’s perspective. Something about Rowell’s use of this style makes me breeze through her novels.
Despite the bright, cutesy cover, this book delves into darker issues than I was expecting. While I can’t speak to how honestly these issues were portrayed, I found the situations to be believable and well represented.
Going into this novel I was concerned I wouldn’t by the Simon Snow / Book Within a Book idea. However, because Rowell included snippets from the Simon Snow series I felt like I got to know the books too, which helped me relate to Cath. However, It was a little confusing to separate out the actual book snippets and the fanfiction snippets. I’d get confused about what happened in the actual series and what just happened in her fanfictions.
Overall, I think Rowell does well by fanfiction and fandom. Cath writes slash fiction, which for the uninitiated is when you pair two characters of the same sex romantically. Slash fiction has it’s dark corners, but I liked how Rowell showcased that slash fiction isn’t all about titillation and can also be about relationships. Cath’s personal struggles are clearly connected to her writing, she clings to the characters for her own sanity.
This book was apart of the inaugural Tumblr Book Club and I went into this book knowing a lot about the love interest Levi. I liked that Levi existed in Cath’s world, but also had his own life and wasn’t there to solve all of Cath’s problems. He’s allowed to have flaws that are more than a crooked smile (seriously, what is with YA and crooked smiles ?) Cath also has a twin sister and I think Rowell’s portrayal of twins is pretty spot on. She really captures how hard it can be to have your identity when people associate you with your twin all the time.
I devoured this book, it was funny, heartfelt and represents a type of YA I’ve never seen….I would really like to see more books that tackle first years college experiences and fandom.