Friday, November 22, 2013

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

And, having read Attachments and Eleanor & Park, of course I immediately grabbed Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

Cather writes fanfic -- and she writes it really well. In fact, her long-running fic, based on the ├╝ber-popular Simon Snow fantasy series, has thousands of fans. And when she goes off to college, Cath plans to continue writing -- in fact, when she gets to college, she finds that the comfort of writing the fanfic is all that keeps her going some days. Her roommate is intimidating, the campus is overwhelming, and her twin sister, who opted to live in a different residence hall, wants to have nothing to do with Cath. Meanwhile, her father may be kind of self-destructing back at home. But it's not all downers -- Cath is accepted into an upper-level writing course, eventually makes peace with her roommate, and meets Levi, an ag student who is relentlessly charming (and who admits to not having read the Simon Snow series. "But I've seen the movies!" he protests). Then again, her lit professor views fanfic as little more than plagiarism, and Levi . . . is dating Cath's roommate. And then there's Nick, who meets with Cath regularly to collaborate on a writing project . . . Well, it's complicated. But throughout, Cath handles things with wit and humor.

This may be my favorite Rainbow Rowell book yet, probably because I was just like Cath when I started college (well, except for the whole fanfic thing). If I had been at a big school, I too would have been too introverted and intimidated to locate the dining hall. So there's an element of nostalgia playing into my love for this book. Also, while the Simon Snow series doesn't actually exist, it's pretty obviously a stand-in for Harry Potter (my love for which is well-documented). I've never wandered into the wilds of fanfic, but I can sympathize with wanting more and more of a series. Cath writes slash, basically analogous to Harry/Draco (just, yikes), but it's her enthusiasm and obvious skill that's really impressive, and the way that she has to find her way from writing in the comfortable, familiar world created by another author, to creating her own stories and finding her own voice and strength as a writer. (I can't help but wonder if Rowell is partially basing the character on Cassandra Clare, who got her start writing Harry Potter fanfic featuring Draco.) The romance aspect of the book ties up almost too neatly, but there are so many things going on in the story that I wasn't bothered by that -- it's less about Cath and her romance, and more a general coming-of-age story that includes a romance.

I'm not sure that I would recommend this book as widely as I would Eleanor & Park -- but on the other hand, this is the book I'm more likely to go back and reread. I would definitely recommend it to fellow Harry Potter fans, fellow introverted college students or former college students, and especially to anyone who has been part of a fandom, particularly lovers of fanfic.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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