Fangirl is the first book chosen for Tumblr’s official book club, #reblogbookclub. As I spend a ridiculous amount time on Tumblr (in fact, it’s nearly four years since I first joined) and consider it to be an immensely large and significant but often ignored space on the internet, I thought it was right to join in and finally see what everyone has been talking about. I see why it was the perfect choice for the first book. It’s a book for people who spend a disproportionate amount of time on the internet, who do not distinguish between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ friends, and for whom ‘the fandom’ does not need explaining. I’m lucky to work in publishing, where blogging and tweeting and online fangirling is simply part of everyday life, and I often forget that a lot of people just do not understand.
Cath is a super fangirl. She loves nothing more than delving into the magical, fantasy world of Simon Snow and writing her critically-acclaimed fanfiction, for which is well known for on the interwebz. Yet it’s time for Cath to step outside of her comfort zone; it’s the start of her first year of university. She’s stuck in a room without her twin sister, Wren, living with an intense roommate, Reagan, who asks What the fuck is ‘the fandom’? and thinks life spent on the internet is life not worth living. And then there’s Levi, who she-might-like-but-who-cares-she-wouldn’t-know-what-to-do-about-it-anyway and besides, he’s Reagan’s boyfriend. And then there’s the family drama. She’s slipping away from Wren, who’s enjoying university life much more than Cath, and she’s desperately worried about her Dad, who’s now alone and suffering quietly. It’s just easier to escape into something she knows best: Simon Snow.
If you’re reading Fangirl, you’re probably already a bit like Cath. I do not doubt she will be in everyone’s top ten favourite characters of the year due to her brilliance and realistic personality. She cannot stand parties or forced social interaction, she wants to do well at school, but she also would rather spend all day reading, writing or on the internet, and she’ll use ‘just’ in every sentence as a defence that deflects any ounce of personal opinion. She’s anxious, more than anxious, most of the time, so she often makes terrible decisions. It is acknowledged that starting university can be an anxious time, but Rainbow Rowell truly understands – and represents – what it is like for a certain group of people, right down to Cath preferring to eat cereal bars in her room rather than go the dining room because she doesn’t know what to do. Cath’s also funny, intelligent, geeky and undoubtedly caring, but only to a certain point. She loves her family – and the family drama is another issue for her to deal with – but she’ll also just crawl into bed and silently panic when it all gets too much to handle.
Often, families are horrifically complicated and I love how Rainbow Rowell doesn’t take the easy way out where ‘everything all ended well because they were family and family love each other’. It’s much more complex than that. It’s not that easy. Cath and Wren, although identical twins, could not be more opposite: Wren is outgoing and social, but can also catastrophically collapse, whereas Cath is shy and reserved, and deals with situations by turning to her fanfiction. Although very different, they’re both fascinating characters to read about. I’m an only child, but I enjoyed reading about the difficult sisterly bond. And, then, of course, there’s relationships. Levi’s the new Etienne St Clair in YA and even if you do not fall in love with him, he’ll make you want a gingerbread latte.
You are likely wondering why I have not given Fangirl five stars. After all, it’s about people like me! Well, I talked to fellow blogger and fangirl Caitlin and we decided that it was because I’m not that sort of fangirl. There’s the solitary, role-playing, fanfiction/slash-writing, canon-appreciating, surrounded by the fandom-type of fangirl and then there’s the social, online community-finding, fansite-creating, tell-everyone-about-it-type of fangirl, and that’s what I am. I love to talk to people about what I love, whether that’s a television show or band or book series, rather than become deeply immersed in the world surrounding my fixation, which is why fanfiction never resonated with me, and why I could only understand Cath’s fangirling up to a certain point. (Although I always love a good username and adored Magicath and Wrenegade!). Of course, they often overlap very much, but rather than writing within a fiction world, I prefer write about it. But it’s the only reason I’m not giving Fangirl five stars!
Fangirl is one of the most wonderful, accomplished, authentic YA contemporary novels I’ve come across. I think we needed it.
Published: 10th September 2013 (US) 1st January 2014, although eBook is already available (UK)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (US) Macmillan Children’s Books (UK)
Source: Thank you St. Martin’s Griffin for providing this book to review!