48b. Read one of Kate's favorite books
Date Completed: 22 December 2017Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
: Cath is a prolific author of Simon Snow fanfic (Simon Snow being the protagonist of the fictional Totally Not Harry Potter series by Gemma T. Leslie) and starting her first year of college. She is, quite simply, completely outside her comfort zone. Her twin sister Wren has decided to try living apart for the first time ever, so Cath is rooming with a stranger named Reagan and, for all intents and purposes, Reagan's maybe-boyfriend Levi. She is taking an upperclass-level writing course taught by an actual novelist, and befriends Nick, who starts as her partner in an assignment and becomes a regular cowriter. Cath is kind of a pile of neuroses to begin with, so all this change on top of the regular family drama she's already dealing with makes her life pretty difficult. But I gotta say, this was a delight to read. I was transported back to college in so many ways, both in general (dorm life, walking everywhere) and more specific (creative writing classes, the dark recesses of the library at night, attending a Harry Potter book launch party). I've never been a big fanfic writer, but there was once a time when writing was almost like breathing, the way it is for Cath. Most importantly, I loved all the characters. I've encountered versions of them in real life many times, and perhaps because of that I felt a deep affection for all of them, even the terrible ones (but in different ways).
Interspersed in the book are selections from Simon Snow - either the original books, fanfic written by Cath and Wren in high school, or from Cath's current work in progress, "Carry On Simon". The similarities to Harry Potter are intentional, of course, but there's enough difference for the passages to be interesting. Cath is a huge
fan of Simon Snow - all her posters and t-shirts and most of her other stuff is somehow related - and yet her fandom is never treated like a joke. The reader is never meant to look down on her for it. It's a refreshing change, really. Cath isn't one of those fans who won't hear a word against her beloved characters; as a fanfic author, she loves writing endless "what if" stories, exploring how the world would be if Gemma T. Leslie had made different choices. This novel is, in some ways, a love letter to fandom in general.
In short (ha!), I really, really enjoyed this book. Some of it was nostalgia, I'm sure, but mostly I just liked the characters and their interactions and I wanted to hear more about their lives. I'd love for there to be a sequel about Cath's sophomore year, and one of these days I do plan on picking up Carry On. (Yes, Rowell wrote a full-length version of the Simon Snow book Cath is writing throughout Fangirl.) I don't really consider myself to be a fangirl in general, but I am a fan of Fangirl.