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Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were 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 fandom, but Cath can’t let 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 fanfiction 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? 

I have always said that sometimes you need a little fantasy to survive reality. Ironically enough, this book is about fanfiction, the art of writing about other works of fiction that are not your own (which is perfectly legal so long as writings are not used for profit) and how a girl dives a little too deep into the fantasy, and can barely deal with reality. 

That girl was me in college. I hated my classes, did not want to make friends and only wanted to write fanfiction. Now look at me; a Bachelors degree, more friends than I ever thought I’d have and I am trying to get a book published. So sometimes, once we step out of the imaginary world, we can make all kinds of things happen in the real one. But not for Cather Avery. 

Cather, or Cath for short, is about to become a freshman in college with her twin sister, Wren, who she will be no longer sharing a room with anymore. And for the time in Cath’s life, she will be without her other half. Wren thinks the change will be good for her, but Cath doesn’t agree. 

Upon her arrival to her dorm, Cath meets Levi, an always smiling, happy go lucky kind of guy who takes a liking to Cath and all Cath can think is ‘Will this guy be roommate?’ Yet even more to her dismay, her actual roommate, Reagan, is scary and intimidating but that is the least of Cath’s worries. What Cath worries about is leaving her father alone for the first time and whether or not he’ll be okay. 

Now with a second abandonment (her mother being the first), a creepy-always-smiling guy, a frightful roommate and a dad to worry about, it is no wonder sometimes Cath cannot deal. Thus Cath turns to writing fanfiction about Simon and Baz from the Simon Snow series. A place where she can help improve upon the lives of other people (as fictitious as they may be) and not stress out so much about the problems in her own life she has yet to begin solving. 

So far so good.  Go to classes, check in with Wren and come back to her room and lock herself in the world of Simon Snow. Yet reality keeps finding ways to erupt her fanficition writing. Wren is spending a lot more time with Courtney, Wren’s roommate, and she and Cath are drifting apart. They are barely talking, with just a few texts here and there, and Cath has no idea what is going on with her sister anymore. On top of that, her scary roommate, Reagan has decided to be her friend, despite the fact that she doesn’t seem to like Cath very much. And thus Cath is also stuck with Levi, who is always hanging around, smiling and being nice to Cath and she cannot help but feel something for Levi, no matter how hard she tries not to. And to top it all off, Cath’s dad doesn’t seem to be coping well with her and Wren not living at home anymore. He is throwing himself into his work, keeping long hours and not eating or sleeping enough. Cath can barely keep up with her schoolwork and keep her life in check, let alone have time to write about the serious love going on between Simon and Baz in her fanfic Carry On Simon. Suddenly, Cath is finding it hard to carry on with anything. How can she balance her crazy life and still do what she loves to do?

To rephrase what I said earlier, sometimes you need a little Fanfiction in your life to help you deal with reality and maybe even escape it. However, too much of a world that does not exist can skew your reality and actually make it even harder to deal with, not help ease the stress. Still, in moderation, fanfiction is all good and fun. Fangirl is a novel that delves into the world of fanfiction to see the pros and cons of what too much fantasizing can do to a person. Fangirl teaches us that if you live too much in a fictitious world, you can miss out or not be able to handle the things in real life. But Fangirl also teaches us that you are capable of more than you know, like the characters in the books you read and stories you write. That the reason you gravitate towards the fantasy is because you see yourself in those characters or wish to be them and the things you dream can become reality. 

Reviewed by Camia Rhodes

Book Information
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 9/10/2013
Pages: 448

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