Today is the last day of school! WHAT! WHAT!
With that said, it is a little odd that today I’m reviewing a book that is all about the start of school! OOPS!
BookTasty is generally a blog for Young Adult and Middle Grades fiction. Once in a while, however, I read a New Adult book.
If you’re not familiar with the New Adult genre, you should know that NA is, “typically, a novel is considered NA if it encompasses the transition between adolescence (a life stage often depicted in Young Adult fiction) and true adulthood. In NA, “protagonists generally fall between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six, though exceptions may apply. NA characters are often portrayed experiencing: college, living away from home for the first time, military deployment, apprenticeships, a first steady job, a first serious relationship, etc.” (NA Alley)
It’s not my favorite genre out there, since I prefer YA and MG, but I’d been hearing good things about Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (and the cover is so perfect!) so I figured I’d give it a go!
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? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
At first, it was a little weird for me to be reading about characters who are in college! But even though it was totally different from my usual I think that Fangirl is a really good introduction to the NA genre because at it’s heart, Fangirl is a story about learning how to deal with change. All of Cath’s Simon Snow fandom obsession is simply a symbol of Cath’s inability to deal with change on a major scale. Ever since her mother unexpectedly left, Cath has been in a way stunted emotionally. She clings to what she knows as if she’d literally stop breathing if she let go, which is why Cath’s first year in college is so challenging for her.
As a main character Cath is lovable and heartbreaking at the same time. I really think Cath is someone I’d want as a friend, however, as someone who is pretty independent I did struggle with her at times. I got easily frustrated with how she was so uncertain and scared of doing things on her own, like figure out how to navigate the dorm dining hall (she didn’t eat a real meal for weeks). But once the cause of this fear of change began to be made known to me, it clicked somewhere in my mind and my heart started to hurt for Cath.
I think it was the same for Cath’s roommate Reagan (whom I totally love). Reagan becomes not only a good friend to Cath, but in the end, becomes a sort of older sister to her as well. They’re relationship is just so real and it’s the kind of thing that makes you think, “That. That right there is what friendship is all about.” Reagan comes alongside a hurting and fearful Cath, holds her hand, and helps her start climbing those difficult steps. And Levi. I adore Levi as a romantic interest for multiple reasons, but mostly because he owns up to mistakes and is an incredibly loyal friend to Cath. He sees her “crazy” and doesn’t run away, but instead encourages her, like Reagan does, to get out of the fog. There is a very sweet romance here.
What is also really cool about this book is the snippets we get from both the original Simon Snow books and from Cath’s Simon Snow fan fiction. It’s interesting to think of fiction within fiction and these snippets often mirrored what was going on in Cath’s life. We saw similarities between Cath’s struggles and Simon’s stories without it being too obvious that they’re mean to support one another.
In addition to being a book about change, Fangirl is also so much more. Rowell delivers a story that is deep and not superficial. Her characters are also figuring out family, love, friendships, sisterhood, mental illness and college. And although NA is not my preferred genre, I found that if more of it was as thoughtful as this book is, I’d probably enjoy it more. With that said, if you’re interested in reading NA, but don’t know were to start, I recommend Fangirl as a strong introduction to the genre.
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (September 10, 2013)
Format: Audiobook (Listening Library)
Length: 12 hours and 48 minutes
Narrator(s): Rebecca Lowman and Maxwell Caufield
YA/MG: New Adult (NA)