by Rainbow Rowell
To be published by St. Martin's Press
on September 10, 2013
Source: e-ARC from the publisher for review. Please see my full FTC disclosure on right sidebar.
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Summary 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?My take: I adored this book. It's a quirky, touching story and I think a lot of book lovers will really connect with Cath and her struggle to find her own voice and place in the world.
Cath and Wren are not only identical twins, they've also had to band together survive their mother's abandonment and cope with their father's manic depression. After their mother left, they discovered Simon Snow, a character in an uber-popular series of children's fantasy books. The two began to write Simon fanfic -- stories set in the story world of the books and featuring the same characters -- and became pretty well known in the Simon Snow fandom. Now they're headed to college. Wren is dying to spread her wings and fly solo (sorry -- couldn't resist!) while Cath is sort of panicked by all that college entails -- new people, a new place, and a new writing teacher.
Yes, Cath is older than the typical sixteen year-old YA heroine, bordering on New Adult age. And yet, Cath faces some classic YA issues. Not only is she leaving home for the first time, her twin also requests a separation of sorts when she tells Cath that she doesn't want to be roommates. So Cath gets paired up with Reagan, a cranky, abrasive upperclassman with a boyfriend who's always hanging around their room. Which makes it difficult for Cath, who wants to hide in her room, eating energy bars and falling back into her comfort zone -- the imaginary world of Simon Snow.
Simon Snow will probably feel familiar (*cough*Harry Potter *cough*) to most readers. But Cath puts her own twist on things in her fanfic. Let's just say that I never thought Draco and Harry's hatred for one another could develop into something different. Fangirl contains passages from the "real" Simon books and sections of Cath's fanfic, both of which I enjoyed.
I've never actually read any fanfic, but I can completely empathize with the desire to keep living in a fictional world that you adore, to keep imagining stories for beloved characters that seem almost like real people. At the same time, it seemed to me that fanfic was used as a metaphor for Cath's conflict. She can choose to stay in the safe, familiar cocoon of Simon Snow's imaginary world, or she can break out and experience the real world, which is a far scarier place, and begin to write her own original story.
Part of Cath's inching toward independence is meeting new people. Given her mother's abandonment and the fact that she always had Wren as a security blanket, Cath is definitely not the friendliest, most trusting person. Her roommate, Reagan, is hilariously snarky, and I loved the way that I thought Fangirl used the relationship between Reagan and Cath to mirror the uneasy relationship between Simon and his roommate Baz. It was fun to watch these pairs of roommates figure each other out.
I also loved the romance. I don't want to say too much, because part of the pleasure of the romance in this book is that you're not really sure who (if anyone) Cath is going to pair up with. Let's just say that some of the characters really surprised me. And that I swear that there was a blizzard scene in Fangirl that reminded me of a scene that took place in These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And am I the last person to figure out that Simon Baz is actually a comic book character? I think I could read this book three more times and still find new details I hadn't noticed…..
Reading Fangirl was a complete pleasure. I really related to Cath and I felt the same way about her as she felt about Simon Snow -- I really didn't want her story to end!
For Freebie Friday, I'm giving away a hardcover to one US winner. You are welcome to enter if you live outside the US, but if my winner is international, they will win their book of choice up to $10 US from the Book Depository! So sorry,wonderful international followers! I am trying to stick to a giveaways budget and TBD is KILLING me with these $18-20 hardcovers. I was going to offer a PB of either Attachments or Eleanor and Park, but neither was available in paperback :(
And, back by popular demand: a question! To enter, you need to click on "free entry" in the Rafflecopter AND answer this question: if you wrote fanfic, what material would you base your writing on?
a Rafflecopter giveaway