There was a boy in her room.
Fangirl is a book about writers, readers and readers who assume the position of writers. It throws you into the wonderful fandom of Simon Snow, a fictional book series not dissimilar to Harry Potter, and allows you to revel in a world where fans keep the stories flowing. Fanfiction is hardly a new concept but Rowell effortlessly revives and refreshes it in her brilliantly written novel which follows an acclaimed fanfiction writer as she embarks on college life.
To the new, exciting world of college Cather is the quiet and reserved half of the Avery twin whole. Whilst Wren is out partying, socialising and discovering who she is away from her identical twin, Cather stays in her room, generally avoiding social interaction with anyone other than her roommate. But hidden behind the screen of her laptop is a world where Cath Avery reigns supreme – the fandom of Simon Snow. Readers worship and adore her stories, giving her both an outlet and a network of loyal friends but will she ever be able to make such an impact in the real world?
I absolutely devoured this book! The compulsion to keep reading it is immense – it is the first book of 2014 that had me reading through my lunch hour and looking forward to picking it up again on my commute home. Set as ‘a slice of life’ college tale, nothing particularly revolutionary happens but the magic is in the story itself and the characters Rowell brings to life. The issues and life lessons featured are sensitively told and resolutely recognisable. The story is paced well with cleverly layered narrative threads woven together – Cath’s college life, her online stories and the original Simon Snow tales. Despite having a clear agenda, Fangirl is delightfully fresh in style and story and has the ability to surprise and effortlessly draw you in.
Without a doubt the biggest strength of Fangirl are the characters – flawed in themselves but flawlessly created. The emotions and relationships are amazingly well written, so real that you become deeply invested in them. Rowell creates a protagonist you come to love, relate to and genuinely care about. Cath is strong and vulnerable, individual but nervous – the type of person you root for and sympathise with. She is absolutely a character for book lovers. The Avery sisters are perfectly balanced to explore the two extremes of first year life at university – the ups and downs, the self-doubt and false confidence that only comes with that first taste of university freedom. And then there’s Levi – oh Levi! I absolutely fell in love with him, a character that develops as Cath does, who is as imperfect as he is perfect.
The ending is exactly what Fangirl is all about and, personally, I loved the open-endedness of it. Some people may be frustrated with characters left hanging or see it as a cop-out from Rowell but she is clearly celebrating the phenomenon that brought her to the story. Everyone can create their own ending and develop the story their own way (some already have here!) and my ending to Fangirl may be very different to yours – you’ll just have to read it to figure yours out…