Books for Teens: Fangirl

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St. Martin’s Press/Raincoast Books
age 13-18
By Rainbow Rowell
448 pages

 Synopsis from Raincoast Books

In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, 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 just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, 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 fan fiction 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? A New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2013

There were many things that attracted me to Fangirl. I could relate to Cath’s connection with fictitious book characters. Although I’ve never taken to writing fan fiction, the idea of feeling an understanding with a character isn’t new, in my kids and me. Like Cath I too love writing fiction and I enjoyed how she transitioned from the real world into her fictitious world as well as how she struggled with understanding her own voice beyond the fan fiction she wrote.

Fangirl is a great coming of age story, as Cath leaves her familiar world at home with her sister and dad always there. In college she has to rely on herself, creating her own identity separate from her twin sister. Cath slowly develops her own confidence in herself, accepting that a boy does find her attractive for who she is. She accepts her love of writing and fan fiction, sharing this personal side of her she once feared others would make fun of. She also has to deal with the past, her relationship with her estranged mom, her sometimes unstable dad, and her own sister’s growing pains.

At first you feel some of the books characters will be developed into bigger roles but they seem to just play in the background, highlighting a part of Cath’s insecurities and growth. Even the Simon Snow characters give us a sense of what Cath’s feeling, through the passages shared in the book and the elements Cath writes herself. Although I believe these passages are there to give you a peek into Cath’s life, I did find myself skimming through most of them, especially the longer versions. I wasn’t keen on reading a second story within a story based on characters I had no relationship with, but I don’t think this detracted from the story, whether you read these passages or not. Of course as a fan of the Harry Potter series I couldn’t help but see similarities between the two fictitious magical worlds.

I especially enjoyed the love story within Fangirl, hinting at the shy looks and gut wrenching stomach butterflies, all without getting ‘down and dirty’ in the pages. To be honest, it’s those romantic gestures, such as fingers briefly touching and the close proximity to someone that moves me more than reading about a romp in the sack and Fangirl plays this part beautifully (especially when I think of my own preteen engrossed in the book).

Fangirl is a great story for any girl moving through adolescence, trying to find her comfort zone within herself and the world around her. I never read Rainbow Rowell’s first novel, Eleanor and Park, but it’s on my reading list after enjoying Fangirl so much.

You can find a copy of Fangirl at your local bookstore or at Raincoast Books. Visit our Kid’s Books section for other great book recommendations.

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