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October 21, 2013 / Angela Sylvia

Teen Lit: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

So I finished Fangirl a few weeks ago, but for some reason am only just now getting around to talking about it. After reading and loving Eleanor & Park, I was suddenly inspired to look Rainbow Rowell up on Amazon, to see if she had anything else coming out. And did she.

FangirlSo, Fangirl is about Cath, a girl entering college. She’s stressed about leaving her dad, and that her twin sister suddenly wants to be separate and have a different roommate and live in a different dorm. Her own roommate is older, and a little grumpy, and she may have bitten off more than she can chew with an advanced fiction-writing course.

Now, here’s the part of the plot description that hooked me in. Cath is a fangirl, a hardcore fangirl over the Simon Snow series, which is obviously and hilariously a version of Harry Potter (I’m not going to say spoof, it’s taken far too seriously to be a spoof). Not only does she read it, and buy merchandise for it, she also write fanfiction. Slash fanfiction. In which she has the two main male characters fall in love with each other, over and over again. I had never heard of an author actually having a character that took part in this segment of fandom, that for a moment I couldn’t believe this was what the book was actually about. I was so stoked to read this book for that bit alone. What really thrilled me once I started reading it, though, is how seriously Rowell takes fanfiction as she’s telling the story. Cath has a few problems with writing fic, one being that she spends so much of her time doing it, another that she fails a Fiction assignment because she decides to hand in a new piece of fanfiction. And there are characters that point out the downside of writing fanfiction, like her professor, pointing out that Cath is using it as a way to avoid living her own life, or writing her own stories. But Rowell also does a very excellent job of having Cath explain why writing fanfiction is so important to her, why she continues to do it, how it makes her feel just better about things. And even when Cath does finally realize that she has to write her own stories, it’s not because she decided that fanfiction is something she has to push to the wayside. It’s still important, it’s just that now it’s not the only important thing.

Also, being a nerd obsessed with a book series and writing gay fanfiction isn’t the only thing about Cath. She’s got a past that’s a bit messed up, and issues with her parents and herself that make it more and more apparent why she is the way she is. These elements are just as important as the fact that she is a nerd, and it makes the story so multi-dimensional and whole that you don’t have to be a fanfic-writing geek to understand Cath and relate to her on a very basic level. Basically, it’s a real story about a real girl, who happens to write fanfiction.

There are so many things about this book I could talk about — the great characters, the truly funny dialogue (“But I like that we’re not friends!” “I do, too. I’m sorry you had to ruin that by being pathetic.”), and a plot that just pans out in a very real and satisfying way. This was great, great, great, and I love Rowell for bringing this into the world.

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