Fangirl was my first Rainbow Rowell novel, and gotta say, the book completely surpassed any expectations I had for it. I love practically everything about this book. It’s a messy, complicated, sometimes sweet, sometimes funny, sometimes heartrending, sometimes poignant coming of age story; a story about growing up and growing away, about realizing potential, about being afraid, about being courageous, about trying, failing, and trying again, about living life, about finding and embracing independence, trust, forgiveness, and love. But above all, Cath is my absolute favorite thing about Fangirl.
Cath is an introvert with social anxiety issues. I am an introvert with some social anxiety issues, and I connected with her immediately. I got her nervousness about new places and situations, understood her need for solitude, recognized her tendency to get lost among fictional friends rather than real ones. Completely understood as well the need for her to push herself (to some extent) a little beyond those very inner-focused activities, to live life, to embrace the people around her, to nurture the relationships worthy of nurturing, to work at mending the ones that need mending. And I loved watching Cath navigate her new situation, her missteps and discoveries as she stumbles upon important truths about herself, others, and life. There’s a lot more to her character, but suffice it to say: Cath’s growth throughout the novel is simply fantastic.
Other things I love:
Cath’s dad, Art, and the dynamic between the two of them. Art suffers from a bipolar disorder, and Cath takes care of him just as much as he takes care of her. It was just a beautiful perfectly imperfect dad/daughter relationship; a great representation of what it means to be family. Rarely do I really love the parental characters, but I love Art.
Levi. This boy. Oh geez, this boy is adorable… and remarkably persistent. With all the times Cath shut him down, shut him up, or shut him out, for some reason Levi doesn’t give up on this strange socially awkward girl. And the stranger she is, the more curious he gets. I just love his optimism and friendliness, his sweetness, his (for lack of a better word) normalcy, the way he challenges Cath… and, of course, his geekiness.
Fanfic & Fandoms. Fanfic is a tricky subject from author to author, running the gamut of honored to amusement to downright dislike of the fans creating their own stories (and sometimes characters) within the framework of an already established/published story, series, and/or world. But I loved the way Rainbow Rowell portrayed Cath’s fanfic. Though writing about Baz & Simon was a bit of an emotional crutch for Cath to fall back on, and though she perhaps needed a push to begin writing her own stories separate from the World of Mages, it was also something Cath was truly gifted at, and something that meant a lot to a lot of people. To the point where she was almost better at it than the original author. I just got a kick out of Cath’s anonymous “celebrity” (maybe that shouldn’t be in quotes) within the World of Mages fandom, and the portrayal of what being a member of a fandom is like… and what that often looks like from the outside. <wink>
The Writing. Rowell’s got a cleverness, that almost-indefinable something to her writing that I just eat up like an 7-year-old left alone with her candy bucket on Halloween. Also, her wonderfully mastery of snappy, witty dialogue, and her ability to do a 180 and knock the serious heartwarming, heartrending stuff out of the park ensures that I will be picking up more of Rowell’s book in the future.
Overall, full of heart, quirky charm, and a good-natured nod to fangirls(boys) and fanfic writers everywhere, Fangirl proved to be an absolute delight.