“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell, A Coming of Age Story

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a very cute coming of age story that fits right between YA and the bookshelves of adulthood.

Cath is fan fiction writing fiend. With several thousand followers, fan fiction, specifically Simon Snow fan fiction, is her life. And it used to be something that brought Cath and her twin sister, Wren, closer together. But after graduating high school, Wren starts to distance herself from fan fiction and from Cath, electing to room with someone else at the college they are both going to. Forced room with a stranger, an older girl with an ever-present boyfriend, Cath’s social anxiety is worse than ever. In addition to her feelings of abandonment, Cath is also challenged in her classes, with a professor that wants to her give up her fan fiction and start creating her own stories. In this coming of age story, Cath must decide whether she can make it through college without her twin, and whether she can leave behind her obsession with Simon Snow and wildly successful fan fiction.

Set in a classic university setting, this book brought back memories for me of what it was like to suddenly become technically an adult, but not quite an adult, when entering the college sphere. The loneliness, the embarrassment, the new relationships, and the ability to look at the world with new eyes—seeing details and perspectives that a high schooler can’t possibly dream of. From the perspective of a introverted, anxiety-ridden, literature obsessed young woman, this novel spoke to me on many levels.

Despite Rowell’s clever writing, the first half of this novel dragged a little. There was just too much self-pity and fear embedded in the main character, which I think helped make Cath believable, but also made it hard for me to feel anything other than pity for her. But by the second half, Cath finally starts to change and Rowell’s writing consequently shines, feeling very fluid and natural, especially in the dialogue. I loved seeing Cath start to come into herself, pushing her limits and making genuine friendships, all while continuing to worry and care about her loved ones that were purposely distancing themselves from her. It was partly her relationships with people that made her feel like such a complex character, and made this such a memorable book.

Something to be aware of if you are thinking about picking up this book, Fangirl does use a lot of language for a YA book, and contains multiple drug and alcohol, and sexual references, things you would probably expect to find on a college campus. There were several times I considered putting it down as I’m not very comfortable with strong language, but obviously I decided to finish it anyway. I also wouldn’t classify it as a YA novel, though it isn’t quite an adult novel either. It sits comfortably in between the two categories, and may be a good bridge novel for those transitioning between the two genres.

3 Stars