Even though author Rainbow Rowell doesn’t even know I exist, I’m convinced I was the inspiration for her novel Fangirl. I’m sure there are thousands of girls out there who feel the same way. But that’s a good and bad thing.
Fangirl‘s title character is 18-year-old Cath Avery. Cath and her twin sister, Wren, are huge fans of Simon Snow, a popular book-to-movie franchise clearly akin to Harry Potter. They spent most of their high school years writing Simon Snow fan fiction, slowly gaining a strong online readership many writers would envy.
But now that they’re going to college, Cath and Wren are growing apart. Wren is more outgoing than Cath, favoring parties over sitting in their room writing Simon Snow fan fiction. But shy, introverted Cath feels out of place at a school where she’s surrounded by hundreds of people just like Wren. So she turns to writing her popular fan fiction Carry on, Simon, as an escape.
I often hear readers say they liked a particular book or movie character because the character was identifiable. But for me, Cath was almost too identifiable. Reading about her college experience took me back to my high school and college days when I was the socially awkward nerd who would rather spend a Friday night reading than partying. It reminded me that any escape we pick, whether it’s a book or a movie or even a frat party, isn’t enough. Eventually, we all have to face the real world.
But as far as the world of fandom, Rowell knows her stuff. All the things Cath does to immerse herself in the Simon Snow series, from writing fan fiction to attending the midnight release party for the final book to spending an entire night marathoning the movies, are things I’ve done for various fandoms.
As a self-proclaimed fangirl, I know the stereotypes all too well: We’re just mindless little girls who only like a book or movie because the main guy is good looking or because the marketing team behind it manipulated us. That our fandoms take over our lives and have no basis in the real world. Fangirl shatters these stereotypes. Cath is a real girl with real problems. Some are seemingly minor, like whether she should eat dinner in the overcrowded cafeteria or live off the protein bars in her room. Some are bigger, like dealing with Wren’s out of control partying or the real reason they love Simon Snow so much — the series is what got them through their mother leaving when they were kids.
Even though Cath is so identifiable, it made me uncomfortable. I’m glad I finally found a book about what it’s really like to be a fangirl. Thank you, Rainbow Rowell, for giving us a true voice. And if you’re a fangirl yourself, or just curious as to what we’re really like, I recommend this book.