If Cath Avery had her way in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, she and her twin sister Wren would be under blankets with her laptop in her lap, wrapped up in the exhilarating world of Simon Snow, and writing the next installment.
But that’s not reality for Cath. As she begins her freshman year at University of Nebraska, she finds her sister Wren, her best friend since childhood, growing apart from her and ditching her for a life of partying and sleeping around. Although she is “making friends”, like her aloof roommate Reagan, perpetually smiling, and Reagan’s helpful boyfriend Levi, Cath is utterly content holing up in her dorm room and writing the next installment of her popular fanfiction series “Carry On, Simon”. Cath’s one passion is fanfiction. As a devoted member of the Simon Snow fandom, she considers it her duty to bend the magical world of Simon to her own will and create new stories for people like her, fangirls, to read.
But Cath begins to discover the effects of an event in her past. One September, when Cath and Wren were in elementary school, their mom walked out on them and their father and never came back. Cath starts to realize how this has changed her life, and how it has changed the lives of Wren and their father. Over the months, and after several calls from the hospital, it hits Cath just how much her mother’s absence affected her, and how much she depends on her friends, the fandom, and most importantly, her sister, to buoy her to reality.
In this brilliant book by Rainbow Rowell, I found the protagonist Cath to be the epitome of the modern-day fangirl. As female protagonists go, the character Cath surpassed all expectations; she was so real. Everything about her, her college struggle, and her life as a fangirl, is relatable to fans of any type. On a personal level, I was extremely excited by all the fandom references and lingo in the book. I consider myself a fangirl, of course (hello, I have a website for book reviews), and I found that Cath represented the specimen of fangirl quite accurately.
But the book went far beyond the emotions and excitement of a fangirl; it explored more profound themes, such as mental illness; how one event can scar a family in different ways. Cath’s emotions when she discovers the effects of her mother’s absence on her family makes her all the more human. Rowell did an excellent job of conveying the feelings of loss and love. The way that the author portrayed the fangirl aspects along with the deeper themes of the book is what made the book so captivating and understandable. Cath uses her fanfiction and her love for Simon Snow to guide her through her struggles and keep her sane.
Fangirl is definitely worth reading. Rowell’s writing is cohesive and fluid, and she is skilled at working in humor when appropriate, and making the reader feel significant emotion when needed. The plot is enthralling and interesting, but is not hard to follow. This book is not rich with adventure and risky exploits; it is not an edge-of-your-seat novel, yet the raw humor and emotion of the story persuades the reader to go on and follow Cath into the complex but amazing fandom.