Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013. Print.
Cath and her twin sister Wren are about to start college, but Wren doesn’t want to share a room with Cath, meaning she will be left to her own devices to survive. The problem is that she’s a shy introvert who has a borderline unhealthy obsession with Simon Snow, a young adult fantasy book series. She lives and breathes Simon Snow. She has reread the book numerous times, peruses the fan forums at every opportunity, and writes her own incredibly popular fanfiction to post online. She knows Simon Snow better than anything. College will be different story. She’ll be on her own, forced to make her own friends and navigate her way through her freshman year.
Fangirl is one of the most relatable books I’ve ever read. I’ve always been a bit of a loner, and this was magnified when I started college. On top of my loner tendencies, I am extremely shy and mildly socially anxious, which made it very difficult to do anything myself, even something as simple as ordering food. One running joke in the book is that Cath has no idea where the dining hall is and she’s too shy to ask anyone for directions, so she essentially lives off of granola bars for a few weeks until she makes a friend. I had a similar experience: my roommate was always busy with her other friends and I was way too shy to eat alone, so I ate ramen and mac and cheese in my room nearly every night for weeks until I found some friends of my own.
Cath’s obsession with Simon Snow was also quite relatable. I have been a Harry Potter fan since I read the first book in elementary school, and while my entire life doesn’t revolve around it, I consider it a pretty big part of identity.
In so many books with shy protagonists, he or she seems to immediately do a 180 in the middle of the book. Suddenly they’re sociable and friends with everyone, which is completely unrealistic. Cath’s journey was very slow. Honestly, she hadn’t changed all that much by the end. She was still shy, she still didn’t have many friends, she was still obsessed with Simon Snow, but she was finally able to find the dining hall on her own. That’s realistic. I’m still a loner, but I’m able to go and eat alone sometimes. I think most people wouldn’t think I’ve changed that much since freshman year, but I know I have. I believe Cath is the same way.
I’m not sure that this would be a great book for students to analyze and discuss in class (the characters aren’t diverse and it doesn’t have a deeper meaning), but I do think it could be comforting for seniors to read, especially those who are about to begin college. It’s a scary new experience, and I felt that Fangirl was very accurate. On top of all of that, it teaches us to embrace our own unique characteristics, even if that means writing a lot of fanfiction.