It took me about two weeks to read only 75 pages of Fangirl and I was ready to give up on it. I thought, I’m too old to enjoy this, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, I’m bored, etc etc. Out of sheer boredom I picked it up again the other night and decided to give it one more go. I am so glad I did as I read until I fell asleep and finished it the next morning. So my first piece of advice to anyone giving this book a go is to really push through the first quarter.
What starts out as a kind of shallow, vapid premise somehow morphs into this pretty deep and complex YA novel. It’s somehow cute, light-hearted, romantic and heart-in-throat sad all at once.
Cath is Fangirl’s fangirl heroine. She’s the less cool, less pretty, less popular twin sister to Wren in the real world, but online her ‘Simon Snow’ (aka ‘Harry Potter with vampires’) fan fiction is read and adored by tens of thousands of readers. Fangirl starts in the twins first year of college, their first year of living away from home and their first year not sharing a bedroom (at Wren’s request, not Cath’s).
You see what I mean by sounding a bit… where can this go?
But it does ‘go’.
Cath checks in on her dad frequently to make sure he is okay now that he’s living alone (their mother is inexplicably not in the picture). At first, this seems to enforce the idea that Cath is homesick, needy and, perhaps, not cut out for college life. It isn’t until she visits home one weekend that you realise the twins’ dad really does need looking after. And when Cath’s mum wants to get in touch with her daughters, the circumstances under which she abandoned them becomes apparent and the twins’ very different ways of dealing with that abandonment make sense. I had my heart in my throat and tears in my eyes while reading some scenes with the family.
Fangirl is not only about family, it’s about first love. Cath is not the type of girl who pines after boys. In fact, she already has a boyfriend when the story starts. She goes off to college and meets a few different guys but isn’t immediately interested in them romantically. She is far more concerned with pumping out chapters of her fan fiction for her readers than she is about finding a boyfriend. So when Cath does end up with guy, who I’m only going to refer to as [spoiler], it happens so normally and naturally that it takes her by surprise. I think this is what sets it apart from any romance that I’ve read, and I think I would mostly classify this story as a romance. Fangirl was somehow fully about Cath’s romantic relationship, but it was by far the most important thing about the book, and I found that refreshing.
The moment in particular that I knew I was rooting for [spoiler] came when Cath and Wren are in a club being leered at by drunk guys wanting them to make out with each other. [spoiler] is so sickened and outraged by the idea that he won’t let it go. Cath’s response is that it happens all the time. Later, [spoiler] asks if this really does happen to her and Wren all the time. Cath responds “Not all the time. Only when we’re around drunks. Or walking down the street.”
I see so much of my younger sister in Cath (they are the same age), and I fully admire Rowell’s grasp on fans and fan culture. I will say that this is probably not one of those YA books that all ages will enjoy, and I’ve given my rating baring in mind the target age bracket. I wanted to give this the extra half star, I really did, but the slow beginning has forced my hand. But if you’re 19 or under, or if you’re older and still like Pretty Little Liars (like I do #sorrynotsorry) then you’ll probably like this.