St Martin’s Press
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
A lot is changing in Cath’s world. She and her identical sister Wren are moving out of home to start college. They’ve shared a room for eighteen years but Wren doesn’t want to be room mates – she thinks they need to get out and meet new people. Wren has also cut her hair, making them look starkly different for perhaps the first time in their lives.
At college, Wren seems to thrive – making friends, going out to parties. Cath retreats into herself, hardly leaving her room except for classes. It takes her a month to confess to her room mate Reagan that she doesn’t even know where her residential hall’s dining hall is. The only thing that Cath seems to take comfort in, is the world of Simon Snow. There’s been seven books and movies and the eighth book is due out in months. Cath and Wren immersed themselves in the fandom of the Simon Snow books when they were children, after their mother walked out on them, not to be seen again. Cath writes Simon fanfiction and has quite a following. But now it looks as though Wren is letting that go too.
College brings a whole new form of challenges for Cath – learning to interact with her oddly protective room mate Reagan and Reagan’s all too present boyfriend Levi, a fiction lecturer who believes that fan fiction is plagiarism and a fellow student who might need Cath’s help in their shared stories a little too much. Wren is barely talking to her, but she’s talking to their estranged mother… and Cath’s fragile father seems to be struggling with his new empty nest.
Cath has always had Wren to hold her hand and smooth the way for her. Will she be able to find a way to fit in on her own?
Rainbow Rowell totally won me over with her debut novel, Attachments which I loved the heck out of. I have her second novel, Eleanor & Park but I’m a little ashamed to say that I haven’t read it yet. And now with this, her third book, she’s kind of cemented herself as one of my favourite authors. I have a feeling that everything she does will just be a win for me.
Cath has had a bit of an interesting childhood and it’s left a mark on her. Her mother left when she was 8, vanishing as she was “unable to be a parent”. That left Cath and her twin sister Wren to be raised by their dad who has episodes of mania. When Cath and Wren are around, they can keep an eye on him, make sure he sleeps, doesn’t burn out. Now that Cath and Wren are off to college, Cath fears for what will happen to her dad. And it appears that her fears are not totally unfounded. She’s also dealing with the fact that she’s not going to be rooming with Wren, which means she’ll have a stranger. Cath isn’t very good with meeting people and making friends. Any friends she had in high school seemed to come because she and Wren were a matched pair and when you had Wren, you got Cath. Wren has always been the outgoing one, Cath is the one that stays in her room writing Simon Snow fan fiction.
I loved Cath. I think I related to her in a lot of ways because I’ve never really been a big drinker. I like going out for a drink and I like seeing bands or going to pubs but I’ve never been the sort to get messy and often, I prefer a quiet night in rather than a raucous one out. I was definitely very much the odd one out in this in my university residential hall – there it seemed the tradition to drink until you vomited and then power up and keep drinking after that. At times I tagged along but I soon learned that looking after drunk people is pretty horrid! I also like to write, although I’ve never turned my hand to fan fiction. I have read fan fiction though so I totally get where Cath is coming from, about wanting to remain immersed in a particular world. Sometimes, especially with a series, there are things that you wanted to happen that just never did. And often, there are people who feel the same and have written exactly what you want to see. I got that about Cath and I understood her awkwardness about her new situation at Uni although she’s far, far more introverted than I am. It took her a month to confess she didn’t know where the dining hall was or what the ‘protocol’ was to eat there! I loved the character of Reagan, Cath’s room mate and the way in which she sort of reluctantly takes Cath under her wing because she feels that Cath is just too pathetic to dislike. The two of them do end up forming quite a very nice friendship – Reagan gives Cath the confidence to step out and actually go to dining hall.
And then there’s Levi. Reagan’s boyfriend Levi (although she seems to also have others). Cath doesn’t understand much about their relationship but Levi should be off limits for her – despite his constant presence, even when Reagan isn’t around, his meeting her at the library at midnight after a study session so she doesn’t have to walk home alone and his constant attempt to invite her places and spend time with her. I so enjoyed the awkwardness of Cath and Levi because so many books feature brooding, dark heroes and girls who despite claiming not to know what they’re doing, basically know what they’re doing. Cath really doesn’t know what she’s doing. She’s so painfully out of her depth and Levi is so freaking patient that it’s impossible not to fall for the cute. Levi is like the anti-brooding Alpha in a way. He’s super sweet and generous and an amazing friend to Cath. But that’s not to say that he’s perfect – he’s definitely not. He f*cks up in a pretty good way, which for Cath is devastating but the way in which he goes about attempting to fix it scores him all the amazing marks in the world.
Fangirl is one of the better books I’ve seen that tackles what the move is like from home to college, especially for someone who is shy and doesn’t easily relate to new people or situations. Cath struggles with a lot of things, including her classes and her worry about her father being on his own, her sister’s downward spiral as well as the reappearance (or attempted) of her mother, all of which tilt her world on its axis. It’s a heartwarming and realistic sort of book that just makes me wish I had more than one more book on my shelf by Rainbow Rowell to read.
Book #236 of 2013