Everyone has gone through an awkward phase in their life, whether it was in middle school, or if it never really seems to end. Most books that tackle the classic awkward period in youth either glorify it or over exaggerate it. When I found out this book centers around a girl who is obsessed (and I really do mean obsessed) with a fictional character, I was a little hesitant to pick this book up. I was afraid of how the book might handle this character (mostly that she wouldn’t be taken seriously and be treated like a caricature of a cosplayer at Comic Con). Taking a chance on this book is one of the best literary decisions I’ve made in a while – Fangirl has become one of my perennial favorites. I seem to keep coming back to this book every time I’m in a reading slump or I just want a book that feels like a tea and a warm blanket on a cold day.
Fangirl is about Cath’s first year of university. She’s a Simon Snow fanatic – she owns all the merch, she writes fanfiction, and she thinks about the books non-stop. Cath enters university just wanting to keep to herself and get through it, but her new roommate has other plans. As Cath’s first year progresses, she slowly comes out of her shell and realizes what the real world (as opposed to the world of Simon Snow) has to offer. I won’t go too much further into detail, but there’s young love, cute library scenes, and literary betrayal.
I love the characters in this book: the main character was well developed, the supporting characters were accurately flawed, and the villain was understandable. The whole ensemble worked together so well. Cath is a flawed main character – she is painfully introverted and shy, but it didn’t come off as satirical. I could believe that she would prefer to eat protein bars than go to the cafeteria where she would have to interact with other people. She spends most of the book resisting the changes in her life she’s facing: her mother reentering the picture, her sister not being as dependent on her as Cath is on her, not living at home anymore, and pressures of being in university. It was all handled gracefully, I saw pieces of me in Cath when I was in first year. I really can’t put into words how much I enjoyed reading about Cath.
Nick was a perfect villain for this story. He isn’t an outright villain – he’s a kid in college with no self awareness trying to get enough experience to land a job. That’s pretty damn relatable. He wasn’t intentionally malicious, but man was it easy to side against him. Reagan was the perfect roommate for Cath. She pushes Cath to move out of her comfort zone while still respecting her hard social boundaries. She’s a snarky, interesting best friend character (and I would love to read a spin off book about her). Levi was amazing. He’s not a perfect, insta-love YA male lead. He had interesting traits, wasn’t a walking stereotype, and was just a genuinely good character. The chemistry between Cath and Levi starts out subtle, but grows quietly in the background of the story. It’s this organic, not instant chemistry that keeps me coming back to read this book over and over again.
Fangirl is one of those books I seem to always go back to when I’m in a slump. I love the chemistry between the leading characters and I love how Rainbow Rowell developed all of the side characters well. This is an excellent example of how a YA book can push the boundaries of New Adult fiction without becoming the millennial equivalent of a Harlequin novel. I can easily say this is a 5/5 book for me.