Rating: 4/5 stars.
Here’s a secret: when I was 13, I wrote Naruto fanfiction. Even though it was pretty bad – and mildly inappropriate – one of my stories garnered over 600 reviews and hundreds of thousands of hits. Reading Fangirl flew me to my past life as an avid fanfic writer while reminding me of my present position as a college student.
Cath writes, reads, and breathes Simon Snow. She and her twin sister Wren own a plethora of Simon Snow paraphernalia, dress up as the characters at every movie premiere, and stalk forums in their free time. As they both head off to college, Wren changes: instead of rooming with Cath, she lives and parties and experiments with her new best friend Courtney. Cath, on the other hand, hides in the room she shares with her misanthropic roommate, struggles to deal with her fiction writing professor who does not appreciate fanfic, and faces boy issues. Real boy issues. Add on a host of problems with her parental units and Cath wonders whether she will survive her freshman year – especially when thousands of her online fans call for her to finish Carry On, her biggest story to date.
Rainbow Rowell writes from the perspective of a college student well. Whether Cath stayed in her dorm and ate peanut butter instead of going to a dining hall, stressed out about schoolwork, or dealt with
men boy drama, I empathized with her. Her use of writing as an escape and as a connection to others spoke to me and solidified the quality of this book as a whole – Rowell crystallizes writing and reading as central themes in the story, an accomplishment for a novel with so many other plot lines.
Cath’s interpersonal crises developed her and the characters around her. Excluding a few side characters, Rowell included a dynamic, quirky cast in Fangirl. The family drama felt organic and the fanfiction snippets paralleled and supplemented the main story, though I can see why others were distracted by them. My only small complaint concerns the culmination of the various plot lines: for some reason, the book never appeared to reach a coherent climax. Some of the conflict resolution left a little more to be desired and a bit more development for certain characters – including Cath – would have increased the overall quality of the book.
Still, I would recommend Fangirl to anyone interested in fanfiction, college life, well-written contemporary YA fiction, etc. A little less superb than Eleanor & Park for me, but I know a bunch of people who loved it just as much as Rowell’s previous books, if not more.