Friday, January 3, 2014

Fangirl By Rainbow Rowell

When my Kiddo was around 11 or 12, she and a friend discovered fan fiction.  Well, they were fans and they like to write and next thing I knew, they were posting fan fiction online, complete with other kid followers.  Naturally, I felt compelled to supervise for safety's sake, even though it was supposed to be only for kids their age.  The fun of writing about favorite characters lasted for a little while and then they moved on.

Turns out, however, I still know a lot more about fan fiction and fandoms than I ever wanted to know.  So when I heard about Fangirl, the new novel from the same Rainbow that brought us the wonderful Eleanor & Park, how could I possibly resist reading it?

Twins Cath and Wren Avery have just started their first year of college at the University of Nebraska.  Cath is very introverted and  can completely lose herself in the world of fanfiction.  She was both miffed and disappointed when extrovert Wren gave up witting fanfic about their favorite character Simon Snow, protagonist in a Harry Potterish series, in high school.  But now, Wren has also decided to live in another dorm, leaving Cath to her own devices.  For Cath, college is painful, for Wren, college is parties.

Her new roommate, Reagan isn't around much and doesn't seem to like Cath much, but whenever she is around, she's in the company of Levi, her former boyfriend.  Cath has managed to get herself into an upper level fiction writing class, where she hooks up with Nick.  The two of them meet in the library and work on their writing assignments together, but it is always Levi who picks her up late at night and walks her back to the dorm.

To complicate Cath's life, she finds herself worrying about their bipolar father living at home, alone and then discovers that Wren has been in touch with the mother who walked out of their lives when the twins were 8 years old.

There is a lot going on in Cath's life, but when she hands in a short story based on the Simon Snow character, her professor gives her an F and calls it plagiarism.  Recognizing Cath's writing talent, the professor gives her another chance to redo the story with original characters and setting.

But that would require becoming her own person.  Can Cath rise to the challenge?

I was actually surprised at how much fun I had reading Fangirl.  I felt such a realistic mixture of funny, poignant, sad, and even irritating, not just in my reaction to the novel, but within the novel as well - all the way to the end.   The characters will remind most readers of people they know, the transition from high school to college, from home to dorm living are all taken from real life and most of us will recognize most of what we read as our own experiences.  

I especially liked the idea of using fan fiction as a literary device juxtaposing Cath's real world and the world of Simon Snow.  Like reality, Simon Snow's world already exists, thanks to the author who created it.  But the real world isn't under our control, and for Cath that feels dangerous and scary.  So, when she writes fan fiction, she is in complete control of the characters, she can make them do whatever she wants in the world in which they live, and that way, it isn't a scary dangerous place to be.

My now self thinks Fangirl could have used a little editing, but I also know that my 18 year old self would have held on to every word as written.  This is the kind of novel I would recommend to everyone in high school, college and beyond.  The Avery family is one of the best dysfunctional family I have read about in a long time and Cath's coming of age should be missed.  Fangirl is a definite 5 Star novel, all 433 pages of it.

I gave Fangirl to my Kiddo for Christmas and she absolutely loved it.

Umm, I wonder if anyone is writing fanfic about Cath and Wren yet?

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

1 comment:

  1. I think my 8th grade daughter will love this! Thanks for your great review Alex!!!


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