Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publication date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: New Adult
Source: Publisher (via NetGalley)
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.Earlier this year, there was a flurry of excitement in the book world after the release of Rainbow Rowell's YA debut, Eleanor & Park. A few months later, the author has done it again with her second NA/YA novel, Fangirl, and this time around, the buzz started long before the official release of the book.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .
But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
The past year has seen a tremendous increase in the number of books under the New Adult genre. For the most part, the only thing that removes them from Young Adult fiction is that they're more explicit - both in way of expletives and sexual content. Rainbow Rowell (and thank God for her!) gives us another perspective to the genre. Mature, but clean. I recently started a book, in whose preface the author essentially stated that a book without sex had 'nothing' in it. Well, Author Who Shall Not Be Named, I present you Rainbow Rowell. In a charmed union of inspired characters and marvelous writing, Rowell brings to us another book that we will not forget easily.
Cath (Cather) is adjusting to a whole new life away from home. Problem is, she's not good with change. Cath is comfortable with things the way they are, but life loves to throw us a curveball every now and then, and its Cath's turn now. To add to her consternation, Cath's twin sister, Wren wants to 'meet new people', and not sharing a room with Cath is part of it. So Cath is left alone to deal with a whole new atmosphere, new people (which is no fun for her, mind you), and a roommate who is more scary than inviting.
Cath is not someone you would call socially adept. She's got trust issues, is awkward around strangers, and much prefers being buried under writing Simon Snow fic and studying than interacting with people she doesn't already know. Let's for the moment forget the fact that that's almost the exact description of me. Not your typical protagonist, huh? And then there's Regan - opinionated, abrasive, doesn't hesitate to call a spade a spade to it's face, and has an altogether overwhelming character. Oh, and if you're thinking she must be this way with everyone except her friends, you thought wrong. No one is exempted from the lash of Regan's tongue. Levi - sweet, always smiling, even tempered Levi, who is Regan's best friend (yeah, who'da thunk it?) and fast becoming Cath's too. Not one of these characters are the run of the mill ones you find in almost every New/Young Adult book these days, and this is where Fangirl stands apart from it's peers.
We've all been fangirls (or boys) at some point of our lives. Fangirl is a tribute to that all consuming obsession with something. The anticipation of a new release in a series, the excitement of dressing up like characters for the release and waiting in line to get your copy of the new book, the bittersweet emotion when you turn the last page that it's actually come to an end, and the yearning for more about your beloved characters. It's all there.
Relationships are Rowell's strong suit, and she employs it masterfully in Fangirl. There's Cath's cracking relationship with her sister, strained even further by the re-entrance of their mother into their lives. The juxtaposition between Cath as she is at college, and the almost maternal role she dons with her father sometimes is brilliant, playing upon the different people one single person can be. Then there's her relationship with Reagan and Levi, each contrasting the other, but playing an instrumental role in Cath's growth as a person. In Fangirl, coming of age means growing up, not while changing yourself 'for the better', but accepting yourself for who you essentially are.
When a published author first ventures into a new genre (in this case, young adult), there's always some speculation about whether or not they can pull it off. Can they deal with the change in gears, and more importantly, will it be convincing? Or is going to be like a kid who's had his hand in the cookie jar - trying hard to blend in, but well, there are those crumbs around his mouth... There's a lot riding on that first book. And if it's a success, then there's a lot more riding on the second book. Will there be magic the second time around? Or was it a fluke, and will she have lost her touch by now? Well, you can rest assured, she hasn't. Rainbow Rowell has arrived at the Young Adult scene, and she's here to stay.
Bottomline: Fangirl is just as brilliant, if not more, than Rowell's previous work, Eleanor & Park. A must read, this book is one than breaks free from all the tropes in the New/Young Adult genre.
Page Turners Blog: Maybe that’s what Rainbow wants the reader to see; stories end in books but not in our imaginations or in our hearts.
Christina Reads YA: ...it's okay to be an introvert, to not jump wildly into the various college experiences but to ease yourself into the new situation.