Well, I’m finally done with the Great Rainbow Rowell Catchup, at least until her next book comes out (more on that later). It’s been a pretty good adventure, although I made the mistake (totally not a mistake) of reading her best book first, so even though the others are awesome I’m like, but they’re not as good as Attachments. This is clearly a terrible problem to have.
I was pretty excited to read Fangirl, due to the fact that it’s about a college kid who writes fanfiction and I was once a high school kid who wrote fanfiction (about Dawson’s Creek, natch) that I very much hope is lost to the internet these days. I’m not even sure I should have admitted that. It was really bad fanfiction.
Anyway. Fangirl. So there’s a girl, she’s called Cath, she has a twin sister called Wren, she writes legitimately good fanfiction about Totally Not Harry Potter (aka Simon Snow) in which Not Harry (Simon) makes out a lot with Not Draco (Baz), and she’s off to college. This should be a good thing, because college is good and she got into a fancy upper-level creative writing class which is awesome. But it’s not that great, because her sister doesn’t want to be a matched set anymore and so lives across campus and hangs out with people completely different from Cath and Cath is a super-introvert who could really use a built-in best friend at the moment, because college. There are boys to be reckoned with and bad grades to get over and serious family drama and fanfic that isn’t getting written because of all this, and oh my goodness I don’t miss college. Well, maybe a little bit.
Rainbow Rowell can write an awesome love story and I think that Cath and her eventual boyfriend (there are two guys and it’s not really spoilery but just in case, I’m not telling you) rival Lincoln and Beth from Attachments in sheer adorableness marred by weirdness. And the fanfiction aspect was well done, with little excerpts from both the “real” Simon Snow books and Cath’s various Simon/Baz stories in between Fangirl chapters that were appropriate to the upcoming chapters, which is a thing that I like. I also liked that you could clearly tell whether it was Cath or Gemma’s story before you even got to the credit at the end, and that Cath’s stories were clearly superior, at least as far as Simon and Baz are concerned.
So the important parts were fantastic. And there was a lot of good stuff about Cath’s family drama and how she and her sister dealt with it completely differently and how it caused issues in all of Cath’s other interpersonal dealings. And I thought that Rowell captured the essence of college life really well, from eating in the dining hall to the concept of “college time” and the fact that classes are pretty much the least interesting thing about being in college.
But certain implausible aspects of the story kept it from being the perfect book for me, starting with the fact that Cath has a non-freshman roommate and culminating in the fact that the Simon Snow novels exist in the same universe as the Harry Potter novels. Seriously, that one throwaway line about Harry Potter is still bothering me — how did Simon and Harry rise to equal prominence without lawyers getting involved?
In the end, I think it was a pretty fantastic book and that you should totally read it because omg Team Cath. You should also read it because Rowell’s next book is going to be the full-length fanfiction that Cath is writing throughout this book, and I am kind of super excited about that.
Recommendation: For fangirls of all stripes and people who went to college and want to relive it without having to go back.