What more can you ask from a novel than lovable characters who live and breathe beyond the page? A young writer finding her voice, telling a story (fanfic) within a story, an innocent college freshman stumbling and fumbling into first love with a totally crush-worthy guy, and a twin carving out her own, independent identity while still honoring the sisterly bond forged through the crucible of childhood. Honestly, what’s not to love about Rainbow Rowell’s un-put-downable Fangirl? I finished the last pages with tears in my eyes and a high-wattage grin on my face.
The novel also offers a sensitive and thoughtful portrayal of mental illness and the aftereffects of childhood abandonment. Perhaps what I related to most was protagonist Cath’s rollercoaster struggle to fully face and navigate through her considerable mental blocks to claim her narrative. If she fails to brave up for this inner battle, can she ever truly share her quirky, creative and compassionate self with others? Can we?
As a writer, I will definitely be returning to this book again and again for inspiration and Professor Piper’s pep talks. Once I finished the last page, I leaped out of the bed to park myself in front of the laptop to get back to work on my own novel. There’s much to study and absorb, appreciate and admire, and reminisce about and reflect on throughout Fangirl, which is really two stories in one. (Who else wanted to read more about Simon Snow in Cath’s serial, Carry On, after reading fictional excerpts of it throughout the novel? Well, it looks like we’re in luck!) Rowell is also author of the award-winning Eleanor & Park, which I can’t believe I haven’t read yet, but it’s definitely going on my ‘to-read’ list.
Fangirl Favorite Quotables:
‘”…I pick my life apart that way, try to understand it better by writing straight through it.’
“So everything in your books is true?”
The professor tilted her head and hummed. “Mmm…yes. And no. Everything starts with a little truth, then I spin my webs around it–sometimes I spin completely away from it. But the point is, I don’t start with nothing.”‘
‘This wasn’t good, but it was something. Cath could always change it later. That was the beauty in stacking up words–they got cheaper, the more you had of them. It would feel good to come back and cut this when she’d worked her way to something better.’
‘Sometimes writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity.
Cath fell and fell, leaving a trail of messy words and bad similes behind her.’