After reading all six books in the Gone Series, along with Before I Die – none of which are light or cheerful matter – I thought I’d have a look at a book by an author who tumblr seems to love – Rainbow Rowell. It was kind of an eenie meenie miney moe which to read first, so I ended up picking Fangirl, and thus, this was my introduction to Rainbow Rowell.
So, blurb. From Goodreads:
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
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?
So that’s the blurb. Simon Snow is clearly a Harry Potter-alike, which is fine, but the book actually mentions Harry Potter as well, which is a bizarre departure from the analogy, which really frustrated me.
In any case. This book in general frustrated me. There’s nothing wrong with being a fangirl. In fact, while I was in school, I was a very enthusiastic fangirl, and I read HP FF with gusto (Dramione, I just couldn’t get enough of it), went to midnight launches of books, etc. I say this to point out that I have no issues with fangirling (although reading back over it, I have to admit it sounds a lot like my exclaiming – I’m not a homophobe! Some of my best friends are gay! – but I digress) but I do have an issue with Cath in this book.
It’s not just that she’s a fangirl. It’s not just that she clearly has social anxiety. It’s that she is the absolute epitomy of both those things. Her anxiety is so bad that she can’t go to the cafeteria for the first month in university because she doesn’t know where it is. And she’s a fangirl with a 40,000 strong fanbase of her fanfiction. And yet – you never see her interacting with the fandom. She doesn’t appear to read any other fanfiction. She doesn’t engage with other fans, except for one girl in the library, and there’s no real sign of her engaging in the fandom [despite the blurb saying that she posts on forums to discuss Simon Snow] other than writing this hugely popular fanfiction. Her anxiety and social difficulties are, of course, magnified by comparison to her twin sister, who feels like a plot device inserted specifically for that purpose – Wren has left Simon Snow behind! – Wren has made friends in college! – Wren is making contact with their estranged mother! – look how awkward Cath is by comparison! It’s just all a little bit contrived.
But if you can get past that, it’s a typical coming-of-age story, which is really quite nice. The boy is nice, and he embraces Cath’s social awkwardness, although they hit some ruts along the way, naturally, and Cath slowly comes out of her shell and comes to terms with who she is as both a writer, a college student, and – yes – still a Simon Snow fan.
It’s not a disagreeable book. It was just a little frustrating in that it magnifies everything. Cath isn’t just a fangirl. She’s the biggest fangirl. She’s not just suffering from anxiety. She’s suffering from really bad anxiety. Her twin hasn’t just spread her wings and separated from her a little – she’s made an almost complete break and become a totally different person.
But that said – when you’re a teenager – doesn’t everything feel like it’s massive and basically the end of the world? And don’t you feel like you’ll always be as obsessed with whatever the current fad is? Rowell does seem to have captured that pretty elegantly.
All-in-all, a pleasant and diverting read which passed a plane journey home for me quite nicely.