What I Realized from my Re-Read of Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl

This was the...8000th time reading it? #noshame

Book Jacket Summary:

A Coming-of-Age tale of fan fiction, family, and first love.

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, ren, 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 fanfiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from the fandom, but Cath can’t let it 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? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell has been a long time favorite for me, which I’m sure is something that every 16-year-old wannabe writer can attest to.

For those of you who don’t know why this book is so significant to literally every teenage book nerd, it follows Cath, a college freshman with a huge online presence on a fan-fiction site in relation to the Simon Snow novels (basically this AU’s Harry Potter).

Despite her ability to socially interact online, she has an intense inferiority complex that causes her to basically have no social life except for her roommate, her roommate’s semi-boyfriend, and her twin sister, Wren.

Encouraged by Wren, her roommate Reagan, and her roommate’s boyfriend Levi, Cath begins to come out of her shell a little bit at a time over her freshman year, even as she deals with family problems and social issues. The book is textbook self-discovery, but Rowell manages to make it one of the few novels that I have to take several days of thought afterwards.

(Granted, the worst thing to ever happen to books is the classic English-teacher-asks-about-symbolism-that-the-author-probably-never-thought-about, but this book is more an inner-reflection book than a physical-symbols book.)

Somehow, Rowell writes Cath as a girl that I, like so many others, relates to on a deeply emotional level. Cath loves reading and writing, spending an alarming amount of time in the library, eating peanut butter…so, she’s basically me, right?

On top of that, Rowell realistically portrays the mental difficulties Cath and the addiction issues Wren deals with in a way that makes me think that Rowell poured herself into Cath’s character. Each detail of Cath beautifully intertwines to make her a complex character that I don’t really feel like I see in contemporaries.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about Levi, too. HE’S FREAKING CUTE, OKAY?!? His obsession with Starbucks, big trucks, and Carhartt jackets makes me kind of (okay, incredibly) sad that he’s not a real person that I’ll get to meet when I go to college.

Basically, without Levi and Cath, I’m not sure where I would be in my confidence about what I love.

And if that isn’t enough: Rowell herself loved Fangirl so much that she wrote Cath’s fan-fiction about Simon Snow (Carry On), as a standalone novel that you can buy in hardback. It’s a real-life thing. Apparently the magical world that Cath’s been immersed in for her entire life is so magical that it’s coming into our world.

So thank you, Rainbow Rowell, for a beautiful, thoughtful, shocking, deep novel that makes me fall in love with Cath and Levi and Reagan and Wren and Arthur and Nick all over again (even if Nick is problematic).

Thank you for letting so many of us stop and think about Cath.

Thank you for making us feel like we’ve been at the bridge of a song for our entire lives, and for making Fangirl the final chorus that makes us explode and fall back together again.

Thank you for Fangirl.

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