Twin sisters Cather and Wren have always done everything together: school, extracurricular activities, and writing fan fiction about Simon Snow, their favorite fantasy series. It’s what kept them sane after their mother left. Cath has always known she could do anything with Wren by her side.
But now the girls are in college, and Wren has decided that it’s time to meet new people. So Cath is stuck sharing a room with Reagan (who she’s pretty sure hates her), living off a stash of peanut butter and protein bars hidden under her bed.
Cath wants to be a writer, but can’t seem to make her professor consider fan fiction “legitimate,” and she’s getting mixed signals from her writing partner. Can Cath make it through her first semester — or even her first week — without Wren?
Fangirling over Fangirl
There is a lot of garbage YA out there, and I’m so glad to say that Fangirl blows it all out of the water. Author Rainbow Rowell has written a great story filled with believable, likeable (and even a couple hateable) characters.
I felt an immediate connection with Cather. I graduated from college in 2009, but I still remember how weird and scary those first few weeks of college were. Like me, Cath is far from home, worried about the immediate future, and shy to the point of awkwardness.
It’s not just Wren she misses, although being without her for the first time ever is certainly traumatic; what Cather really wants is her old life: taking care of her dad and expressing her emotions through the safety and anonymity of a Fanfixx.net account.
Teenagers done right
Writing teenage characters is challenging: the real things are complicated, awash in hormones and confusion and love triangles and fear of what’s ahead. Make them too much like adults and you’ve missed the point; make them too much like kids and people are too annoyed to read.
Rowell’s characters are perfect. They take things way too seriously, are occasionally paralyzed with indecision, fear change, make mistakes, are kind and thoughtful or sneaky and cheating, and are simply doing their best to muddle through managing relationships and sex and drinking and figuring out who they are.
It’s all glorious and awkward and funny and painful and perfect.
Just one thing…
Rowell not only wrote Fangirl, she also did a fair amount of worldbuilding for Simon Snow, the book series about which Cath writes her fan fiction. Sections from the (non-existent) books are quoted in the book, as are snippets from the fan fiction that Cather has written.
The Simon Snow series is about an 11 year-old boy named Simon who is recruited to attend the Watford School of Magicks. He befriends a bookish girl and eventually teams up with his friends to try and defeat a Bad Wizard who wants to take over everything.
Sound familiar? I normally like the “story within a story” concept — often one is just as interesting as the other — but in this case it was actually kind of distracting. The similarities between the ultra-fictional Simon Snow and the genuine (but still fictional) Harry Potter series were blatant; it wasn’t an exact copy, but close enough that I was distracted by it.
Which sucks, because I know Rowell has the writing chops to come up with something better. Not only that, it lessened (ever so slightly) my enjoyment of Fangirl itself — a shame, because it really is great.
All things considered, definitely girl Fangirl a try; maybe just skip the Simon Snow “excerpts.”