‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell does pretty much everything right

Posted: November 1, 2013 in Books & Reading
Tags: ,

Fangirl Rainbow RowellI recently finished Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and was completely blown away. If you want to hear a more in-depth discussion of the book (though I’d recommend you read it first, as this contains spoilers), you can check out our Book Hype episode about it.

Meanwhile, I’m just going to be over here fangirling. (See what I did there?)

Oh, and no spoilers, though watch out for the comments!

Fangirl was an amazing read for me for two very distinct reasons: 1. Anxiety, and 2. Fandom.

1. Anxiety

The main character in Fangirl is named Cath, and in nearly every respect I felt like Rowell was writing about me. It was strange and, actually, made me a little uncomfortable.

Cath has social anxiety. Her twin sister didn’t want to room with her at college, so they could be identified as separate people (which, understandable). Cath barely left her room, didn’t eat at the dining hall on her own, almost never spoke to her roommate, and avoided making friends.

Yes, that was me.

I was lucky in that my roommate in college was my best friend. We’d been friends for years beforehand, and even though certain people at the college warned us that if we lived together we’d ruin our friendship, we did it anyway. It was my saving grace in a lot of ways. I wouldn’t have gone to the dining hall by myself, but Deej dragged me there. I hated walking to classes by myself, so I’d always make sure I’d go out with her — even if that meant I was way too early for everything. The whole experience was completely overwhelming.

And all of that shows through with Cath and what happens to her at school. There was one passage in the book where she worries about the answers to questions no one else asks. Where does the line start in the cafeteria? What can you eat? Where do you put your tray when you’re done?

When you don’t have anxiety, these questions seem bizarre. “Just figure it out!” “Watch what other people do!” That’s not so easy when you have a swarm of doubt buzzing through your brain like angry bees hellbent on seeing how high they can raise your heartbeat before it explodes.

Anxiety is exhausting. I don’t know whether Rowell had it — or still has it — or if she knew one someone who did, but the thought processes written in this book are so hauntingly similar to my own that I found it both impressive and a little scary.

For anyone who does have anxiety, especially social anxiety, I would recommend this book. It’s fascinating to see it written out in front of you, brought to life by Cath right before your eyes. It’ll make you pause and think, but it will  also give you hope for a less anxiety-ridden future.

P.S. Deej and are better friends than we were before college. Chew on that, Mansfield administration.

2. Fandom

This part may be harder to convey to you, as I know most of you are not as immersed into the fandom world as I am. But many of you are still huge fans of movies, television shows, and books.

Fandom mostly exists on the internet on Tumblr and Twitter and in forums. It’s a place where people gather to discuss their favorite things, laugh at inside jokes, and let their creative juices flow.

Fan-fiction is one result of that creativity. With the advent of Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m sure many of you are very familiar with the idea of fan-fiction and it’s various pros and cons. In Fangirl, Cath writes fan-fiction about a non-existent character named Simon Snow. It’s slash (gay) fiction, which is something that exists in droves on websites like Archive of Our Own, and the numerous others that exist.

Although I’ve only recently gotten into reading fan-fiction, Rowell obviously pulled from her own experiences when dealing with Cath’s obsession with these characters and her desire to write her own versions of them.

It’s something that is very real and exists in our world. This book explored not only an individual person’s relationship with fictional characters and fandom, but other people’s relationships with this person. It was interesting to see fandom both from someone’s perspective that lives in that world and from the perspective of someone that doesn’t.

All in all, I would highly recommend this book. It’s one of those novels that has the ability to really stick with you forever. For me, it did just that. The level at which I could connect to Cath was astounding, even if we weren’t exactly alike. And because of that, I appreciated not only the story for being a good one, but also what the author was trying to say within the pages of her novel.

Have you read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell? Do you think you’d like to? You can add it to your Goodreads list if you’re interested!

  1. I absolutely love this book! I can see myself in Cath. I really love how I still think about her and her story even though I read the book several weeks ago. I believe it’s a book that I will be rereading regularly.

  2. i’ve heard so much about this book that i really want to read it. my daughter picked up her eleanor & park book last time we went to the bookstore,so i’m going to steal that from her and read it next.

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