“It felt good to be writing in her room, in her own bed. To get lost in the world of mages and stay lost, to not hear any voices in her head but Simon’s and Baz’s, not even her own. This was why Cath wrote fic, for these hours when their world supplanted the real world, when she could just ride their feelings for each other like a wave.” Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl
As promised, this week’s recommendation is a little less heavy. This book was written by Rainbow Rowell, an incredible author who has very quickly become one of my favorites. If you follow my posts on any of my social media accounts, you are bound to have heard me harp on about my love for this author and her fantastic work. Fangirl was published in 2013 and was hailed by fans and critics for its accurate and loving portrayal of fan-fic and fandom culture. The novel definitely promotes embracing your inner geek. So naturally, it instantly struck a chord with yours truly.
The story centers on identical twin sisters, Cath and Wren. Both have just started their first year of college. Life on campus gets off to a rocky start, when Wren decides she doesn’t want to be roomies with her sister. This surprises Cath and comes as a bit of a blow. In high school they had always shared the same friends and interests. For the most part, they had been inseparable their entire lives. But, Wren decides she wants to be more independent. She sees college as a new beginning and wants to embrace change. She wants to go to parties, dance with her roommate and meet boys. Cath is not as outgoing as her sister. She does not adapt to change or social settings the way Wren does. It is Cath’s instinct to cling to the familiar. Other than her sister Wren, Cath’s biggest security blanket is Simon Snow.
Simon Snow is the lead character in Cath’s favorite book series. The Simon Snow series is compiled of seven fantasy novels about a young magician attending a magical school. He must defeat the Humdrum, an evil entity threatening to destroy the school and rid the world of magic. Sound familiar? The Parallels between this series and Harry Potter are both obvious and intentional. It’s like a bizarro Potter universe, where they've just renamed everything. Cath is obsessed with the series. She even has her own website where she writes and shares her own fanfiction. The site has thousands of loyal followers, many of which prefer her version to the original. In Cath’s version, Snow (this world’s Potter) and Baz (This world’s Malfoy) fall in love. She spends hours writing adventures and romantic scenes for the pair. As she approaches the end of the series, she feels the pressure of wrapping things up for her eager audience.
Cath has major social anxiety. Even simple things such as eating in the college cafeteria alone, induce panic attacks. You really feel for her, while also understanding where Wren is coming from. Family is a major theme throughout the novel. When Cath and Wren where eight years old, their mother left their father and abandoned the family entirely. This has affected both girls in very different ways. While Cath chooses to retreat to her fantasy world, Wren acts out. Despite their differences they have always been there for each other and for their father. Their father is bipolar and Cath frequently assumes the parental role. Leaving him behind to live on campus adds to her anxiety.
Although Cath initially felt abandoned by her sister’s sudden need for separation, ultimately it helps both of them discover who they are. Cath learns to slowly loosen her grip on Simon Snow. She has spent so much time writing Simon and Baz’s epic love story; she's left little room for one of her own. She quickly realises that she knows very little about romance in the real world. Enter Levi. On paper he and Cath have nothing in common. They shouldn’t click, but the chemistry is undeniable. With the help of her new roommate Reagan and budding new love interest Levi, Cath finally begins to come out of her shell and flourish. Ironically, as Cath thrives, Wren spirals and eventually lands herself in hospital with alcohol poisoning. This event brings the pair back together, making them closer than ever. It also reunites them with their long-lost mother and helps them find closure once and for all. For me, Fangirl was a story about first loves and growing up. While some of us embrace it, others drag their heels. Ultimately, the pair realise that they can move forward without totally leaving everything from their past behind. It is a quirky, moving and fun read.
Fangirl also gave way to the spin-off novel Carry On. Excitingly, this book is Cath’s fan-fic story Carry on: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow. So basically, Rowell wrote a novel written by a character in one of her previous books. It is meta-fiction at its best and also one of my favorite reads from last year. I am very excited about recommending it to you next week. I guess it's a Rainbow Rowell double feature. Hell to the yeah! I can’t recommend this author enough. She is known for her killer dialogue and her books are jam packed with quirk, wit and charm. I urge you to add her to your bookshelf. Until next time, may your days be filled with peace, love and poetry.
“The whole point of fanfiction is that get to play inside someone else’s universe. Rewrite the rules. Or bend them. The story doesn’t have to end. You can stay in this world, this world you love, as long as you want, as long as you keep thinking up new stories.” – Cath, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell